Vandal Alumni Offer Homegrown Help for Southeastern Idaho Students
American Falls may have more Vandals per capita than anywhere else on the planet thanks to a dedicated group of alumni working to help local students attend the University of Idaho.
In 2008, the southeastern Idaho chapter of the U of I Alumni Association added an annual barbeque and auction to an established golf tournament, all to raise scholarship funds for area students. In just over a decade, the chapter has raised more than $93,000 for scholarships, including matching funds from the Alumni Association. Thirty-six students have received $2,000-$4,000 each to attend the university since the chapter added the barbeque and auction. Recipients hail from American Falls, but also the surrounding communities of Aberdeen, Bear Lake, Soda Springs and Pocatello.
“Watching these kids, especially those in need, get a little extra money to go to school is really rewarding,” said Jeff Schutte, ‘00, president of the chapter for the past nine years. “It’s why we keep going.“
The auction, held annually at the Lions Club shelter, features a range of Vandal gear purchased and shipped from Moscow, as well as donated items from local alums. A Vandal T-shirt may bring up to $50, a Vandal coffee mug $25. The Vandal pop-up tent $300.
The last item to be auctioned off every year is the traveling trophy: a “vintage” Vandal statue donated by then-U of I Assistant Athletic Director Jim Centre that’s glued to a homemade base. It always brings the highest bid of the evening and is a highly coveted symbol of support. The winning bidder brings the trophy back the following year to be auctioned off again.
Tom Kress ’97 received a chapter-funded scholarship in 1993 and said it helped make a U of I education possible. He has been a stalwart supporter of the event ever since.
“I have always liked this event,” he said. “We are giving to local kids. You can see where your money goes. I haven’t missed a year since 1997.”
Breianne Rudeen Bauer and Katie Rudeen McCarthy ‘08, fourth-generation Vandals who received the scholarship in 2005 and 2008, respectively, agreed. They attended the annual event as children and now are bringing their own youngsters to the party.
Aleana Cataluna of American Falls is one of this year’s scholarship recipients. The first in her family to attend college, she is a freshman majoring in interior design at U of I.
“Without my scholarships, I don’t know how I would attend college without going into incredible debt,” she said. “I am so grateful for what these people have done for me. I will definitely want to do that for local kids in the future.”
Raising scholarship dollars has been the primary focus of the chapter that formed in the early 1980s. What started as a backyard picnic has evolved into today’s annual confab that produces significant results.
“My first job out of law school was with the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office,” said Gary Riedner ’81, ’84, one of the founding members of the chapter who now serves as city manager for the city of Moscow. “Mike St. Marie, who was working for the alumni office at the time, approached me about the fact that there was no active alumni chapter in southeastern Idaho even though there were tons of Vandals in the area.”
Riedner said one of the group’s first tasks was raising money to get a local radio station to air Vandal games. After that, activities included meetings around U of I football and basketball games or visits by university representatives.
The first annual activity for the group was the Vandal Golf Scramble in American Falls.
“All of the courses in Pocatello were too expensive, but Bob Schreiber suggested the course in American Falls,” Riedner said.
I am so grateful for what these people have done for me. I will definitely want to do that for local kids in the future. Aleana Cataluna
And in 2008, the group added a barbecue following the golf tournament. Today, chapter members meet in May to determine who receives the scholarship and plan the barbecue and golf tournament festivities.
Schreiber ‘57 said many of them see each other outside of meetings. “Other schools consider themselves a nation,” he said. “Idaho is a family.”
Article by Kathy Barnard ’81, Director of Alumni Relations
Published in the fall 2019 issue of Here We Have Idaho.