University of Idaho - From Here You Can Go Anywhere  



July 2014




PREAMBLE: This section sketches a very brief history of the University of Idaho.  Fuller information can be found in Statutes and Decisions Relating to the University of Idaho by Harrison Dale, former president of the university (Boise, 1944) [see the Appendix], Beacon for Mountain and Plain: Story of the University of Idaho by Rafe Gibbs (Moscow, University of Idaho Press, 1962), This Crested Hill: An Illustrated History of the University of Idaho by Keith C. Peterson (Moscow, University of Idaho Press, 1987).  This section was written by the Faculty Secretary’s Office for the 1979 edition of the Handbook and has been updated so as to maintain currency of information from time to time since.  Unless otherwise noted, the text is as of July 1996.  [ed./rev. 7-98]



A. Origins

B. The University Today

A. ORIGINS. [See also Appendix I.]

A-1. Recognizing that education was vital to the development of Idaho, the legislature set as a major objective the establishment of an institution that would offer to all the people of the territory, on equal terms, higher education that would excel not only in the arts, letters, and sciences, but also in the agricultural and mechanic arts.  The federal government’s extensive land grants, particularly under the Morrill Act of 1862, provided substantial assistance in this undertaking.  Subsequent federal legislation provided further for the teaching function of the institution and for programs of research and extension.  In all, approximately 240,000 acres were allocated to the support of Idaho’s land-grant institution.

A-2.  After selecting Moscow as the site for the new university, in part because Moscow was located in the "center of one of the richest and most populous agricultural sections in the entire Northwest" and the surrounding area was not subject to the "vicissitudes of booms, excitement, or speculation," the University of Idaho was founded January 30, 1889, by an act of the 15th and last territorial legislature.  That act, commonly known as the university’s charter, became a part of Idaho’s organic law by virtue of its confirmation under article IX, section 10, of the state constitution when Idaho was admitted to the union.  As the constitution of 1890 provides, "The location of the University of Idaho, as established by existing laws, is hereby confirmed.  All the rights, immunities, franchises, and endowments heretofore granted thereto by the territory of Idaho are hereby perpetuated unto the said university.  The regents shall have the general supervision of the university and the control and direction of all the funds of, and appropriations to, the university, under such regulations as may be prescribed by law." Under these provisions, the University of Idaho was given status as a constitutional entity.  Though the university is to be governed under regulations as may be prescribed by law, the regents were specifically given control of the funds and conditions of employment.  Thus, the Board of Regents (designated in the territorial act as a body corporate and named "The Regents of the University of Idaho") has wide-ranging authority not inherent in the governing board of the other institutions in Idaho’s state system of higher education.

A-3.  The regents were also empowered to appoint the university president to administer the institution and serve as president of the university faculty and of the constituent and associated faculties.  As provided in the territorial act, the president is the "executive head of the instructional force" and gives "general direction to the instruction and scientific investigation of the university." The act also entrusted the immediate government of the University of Idaho to the faculty.  The tradition that the faculty, the president, and the regents are jointly responsible for governing this university has continued to the present.

A-4.  James H. Forney was named acting president from 1891-1892 and Franklin B. Gault became the first president, welcoming about 30 students and one other professor when the university officially opened its doors, October 3, 1892.  Most of the students who entered in 1892 were at the preparatory level; thus, the first graduating class in 1896 numbered only four (two men and two women).  The following year the first master’s degree was awarded, and the next year saw the appointment of a new president, Joseph P. Blanton, who served until 1900.  Since then, UI has had the following presidents:  James A. MacLean (1900-1913), Melvin A. Brannon (1914-1917), Ernest H. Lindley (1917-1920), Alfred H. Upham (1920-1928), Frederick J. Kelly (1928-1930), Mervin G. Neale (1930-1937), Harrison C. Dale (1937-1946), Jesse E. Buchanan (1946-1954), Donald R. Theophilus (1954-1965), Ernest W. Hartung (1965-1977), Richard D.  Gibb (1977-1989), Elisabeth A. Zinser (1989-1995), Thomas O. Bell, Interim President (1995-1996), Robert A. Hoover, (1996-2003), Gary G. Michael, Interim President (2003-2004), Timothy P. White (2004-2008), Steve Daley-Laursen, Interim President (2008-2009), M. Duane Nellis (2009-2013) and Donald L. Burnett Jr., Interim President (2013-2014), Charles (Chuck) A. Staben (2014-present). [rev. 7-06, rev. 8-13, rev. 3-14]

A-5.  The university catalog for 1893 states that the "college or department of arts," "the college or department of letters," and "the college or department of agriculture" offered five "collegiate courses": "the classical; the scientific; the mechanic arts and civil engineering; the agriculture; the English." The College of Letters and Science was formally established in 1900.  Colleges established later, though not necessarily under their current names, are:  Agriculture (1901), Engineering (1907), Law (1909), Mines and Earth Resources (1917), Forestry, Wildlife and Range Sciences (1917), Education (1920), Business and Economics (1925), and Art and Architecture (1981).  Graduate work has been under the supervision of the College of Graduate Studies since it was created in 1925.  The Lionel Hampton School of Music (1969) and the School of Communication (1972) function within the College of Letters and Science, and the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences (1974) functions within the College of Agriculture.  At UI, schools are not independent academic units.


B-1.  The University of Idaho serves as the flagship research and land-grant institution of the state, is a Carnegie Doctoral/Research-Extensive institution, is a principal center for professional education, and is the state’s preeminent center for comprehensive and research-oriented graduate programs. [ed. 7-06]

B-2.  UI is a member of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.  It is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and accredited or approved for specific programs by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, American Bar Association, American Chemical Society, American Dietetics Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, Association of American Law Schools, Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, National Architectural Accrediting Board, National Association of Schools of art and Design, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Schools of Music, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and Society of American Foresters. [ed. 7-06]

B-3.  As noted in A-1, substantial federal land grants were made available during the territorial days and allocated to the university; the income from these properties still contributes to its support. Nevertheless, the institution’s main support is from annual legislative appropriations and, primarily for auxiliary services, from student fees.  The university also receives gifts, grants, and endowments for scholarships, teaching, research, and development from many sources, both public and private, in part through the UI Foundation and the Idaho Research Foundation.

B-4.  Since its small beginning, the student body has grown to over 13,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students and is made up largely of full-time students who live on campus or within easy commuting distance.  Though most of the students come from Idaho, every state in the union and approximately 85 foreign countries are represented.  There are more than 750 full-time faculty members in teaching, research, and service and approximately 1500 staff and professional personnel.  In addition, the university operates instructional/outreach- and research centers and stations around the state, offers a wide variety of high-school and college courses by correspondence, conducts general extension services and continuing-education programs in many localities, and participates in numerous interinstitutional programs.  The main campus alone now covers over 300 acres and is the site of more than 50 major buildings.  Other university lands, including the nearby university farms and experimental forest, exceed 8,000 acres. [ed. 7-06]

B-5.  Following deliberations and recommendations from the specially appointed University Vision and Resources Task Force (summer 2004) and subsequent open commentary period, the sixteenth president of the University, Timothy P. White, developed the Plan for Renewal of People, Programs and Place (February 2005). The Plan is crafted around our identity as a student-centered, research-extensive and engaged learning community. The plan may be viewed on the web at:  Strategic Action Plan 2005-2010  [rev. 7-06]

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University of Idaho, Moscow, ID, 83844