For the past few days, as news spread about University of Idaho President Duane Nellis' pending departure, the mood was somber and disappointed. The Vandal family and friends were sad. So it took me by real surprise to hear some people not celebrating his success.
I must disclose that I was once an anchor and reporter for KTVB, the Idaho Statesman's largest competitor. I served as the spokesperson for the University of Idaho in Boise and worked daily with President Nellis, his leaders and reporters, and I am currently a principal at Gallatin Public Affairs, which has had a long-time relationship with the university.
We know President Nellis has served the school during devastating and often controversial times, but it is also worth remembering his many and varied achievements. He must have done something right to warrant being named the sole finalist for Texas Tech, a major research institution with 30,000 students.
It's worth noting that Nellis was responsible for the success of 70 locations across the state, an economic engine that contributes nearly $1 billion annually to the state. Here are a few more specific examples of what he is responsible for starting, cultivating and accomplishing during his time as CEO and leader of Idaho's land-grant institution.
The Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST) was formalized in 2011, allowing researchers across campus combine their expertise, resources and tools to better understand and predict a variety of complex data.
In keeping with its land-grant mission to share its discoveries and research findings in support of Idaho's economic development, the Laboratory for Applied Science Research (LASR) was established. The research park introduces a robust support mechanism for private sector research and development and transfer technology.
The College of Law developed a focused, high-quality curriculum for third-year students seeking a metropolitan learning experience.
University Distinguished Professor awards were established. This new rank recognizes sustained excellence as judged by peers, in scholarly, creative and artistic achievement. Each recipient gets a stipend for five years to use for research, student support, equipment and professional activities.
More than 250 partnerships and collaborations were developed that infused private money with public research. These efforts allowed the Parma Research and Extension Center to stay open thanks to a collaborative effort by the U of I and the J.R. Simplot Co.
The University of Idaho is the lead institution for a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with partners at Oregon State and Washington State universities.
Nellis is the only president in recent history that embarked on both a listening tour to begin his presidency and the listening tour last summer.
Last year alone, more than 2,200 students volunteered more than 130,000 hours to service learning and volunteer projects, community service that's strongly encouraged by Nellis.
Nellis started the largest nonprofit capital campaign in the state's history. To date the university has raised $180 million in its Inspiring Futures: Invest in the University of Idaho campaign. The goal is $225 million by the end of 2014.
I could go on, but you get the point. The University of Idaho is a fantastic institution that is serving our state and its residents in a number of ways. President Nellis has been a great leader and I wish him well at Texas Tech. We should be celebrating his accomplishments and looking forward to finding the next successful university president to take the school forward. Good luck, Mr. Nellis, and good luck to the University of Idaho as it searches for his replacement.
Ysabel Bilbao is a principal at Gallatin Public Affairs.