From the President: Idaho a Gateway to the Stars
One of my earliest memories is huddling around the television with my sister in our living room in Waukegan, Illinois, nervously watching astronaut John Glenn become the first American to orbit the earth. Like many boys and girls — and women and men from all walks of life in 1962 — I was awed by the accomplishment of going to space and successfully returning. The idea that one could travel around the Earth and return safely was incredible. Glenn — who passed away last November — was a true American explorer, displaying great personal courage as he advanced our understanding of the universe.
Space still retains that power to inspire and amaze. Recent explorations of Mars and Pluto give us new information about our solar system, replete with stunning imagery and fascinating stories. But people might be surprised to learn how close to home some discoveries originate. The Vandal spirit of innovation and excellence touches a wide variety of space-related projects. You will find a UI connection to the Cassini mission to Saturn, manned space flight through private companies, and to technology that has direct applications to life down here in Idaho. Many of those interesting stories are showcased in this issue of Here We Have Idaho. If a route to the “final frontier” begins some-what unexpectedly here in Vandal country, that’s a testament to the mission of our university and the excellence we have built over the years. A public research university like ours can take pride in offering students from Idaho and elsewhere the chance to study the world beyond our world. In this respect, alone among Idaho institutions, our NASA Space Grant Consortium offers students and citizens the chance to be a part of a great endeavor.
I certainly didn’t follow John Glenn’s footsteps — my feet stayed closer to the ground, where I found a world to explore in fungi. But science is about the willingness to explore. That’s an attitude you can take with you to designing new rockets, sure, but just as easily to studying the natural world on earth, improving an organization, starting a company or designing public policy. The possibilities are nearly as endless as the stars in the sky.
We can all take pride in the UI researchers, alumni and students who are looking up at the sun and stars and planets to ask questions about what is out there, how we could learn more about it, and how we could use that knowledge back here on terra firma. Their work is going to inspire future generations to learn more, do more and be more. Someday soon, young boys and girls will be huddled around their televisions — or their phones and tablets and who knows what else — to share in the excitement and tension of another advancement. As you’ll see, there’s a good chance that achievement will have a Vandal connection.
Chuck Staben, President