Boise State has aspirations — for its students, faculty and the communities it serves. That’s why it prioritizes private support of endowed faculty.
“Endowed faculty positions are a powerful tool in both attracting and retaining the most talented faculty,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John Buckwalter. “These prestigious awards directly impact the reputation of the institution and enhance the education opportunities of our students.”
Endowments are investments that yield extra income for instructors and scholars, usually named after donors or their loved ones. They supplement salaries, fund research projects, equip laboratories, pay for travel and other expenses, and hire graduate students.
Endowed chairs, deanships, professorships and fellows are the most prestigious appointments universities can bestow on their faculty. They help Boise State attract and keep talent. A boon to graduate students, they increase access to research and grow graduate programs.
Professor Julia Oxford is the Lori and Duane Stueckle Endowed Chair in the Department of Biological Sciences, where she is also the director of the Center of Biomedical Research. Since 2016, when the Stueckles endowed her position, she has brought in more than $45 million for research, infrastructure and career development for young investigators pursuing biomedical research.
“Support of endowed positions strengthens the research, creative and professional portfolio at Boise State in a sustainable manner and facilitates growth in target areas,” Oxford said.
The Passions of Faculty and Donors
Boise Cascade founder Robert Hansberger’s passions were business ethics. After his death, his family established the Robert V. Hansberger Chair of Business Ethics in the College of Business and Economics, the first endowed chair in a business school in Idaho.
In February 2022, the college announced it had appointed Ruth Jebe, an associate professor of legal studies, to fill the seat.
Jebe came to Boise State in 2016 and studies ethical and regulatory issues related to sustainable business. Her most recent article, “The U.S. Plastics Problem: The Road to Circularity,” appeared in the Environmental Law Reporter. Endowed chairs allow academics to focus on specific topics or issues.
“The Hansberger Chair is a great example of this,” she said. “It was established to honor the legacy of ethical conduct and community responsibility demonstrated by Robert Hansberger. It’s intended to promote the idea and discussion of ethics and social responsibility in business.”
Boosting the Whole University
“The fact that Boise State is beginning to fund and create endowed positions shows how it is becoming an innovative research school that can attract leaders and thinkers with some of the most exciting ideas in the academic world today,” said Sam (Stephanie A.) Martin, whom Boise State appointed in June 2022 as the Frank and Bethine Church Endowed Chair of Public Affairs
in the School of Public Service.
Martin researches American democracy and the relationship between freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the public sphere. She grew up in Boise and attended Boise State, returning by way of Southern Methodist University where she taught corporate communication and public affairs. Martin won a national book award from Word & Way in 2021.
Her status as an endowed chair has its perks, she said, helping “get phone calls returned, grant applications noticed and invitations accepted.” The influence, Martin said, helped her arrange a visit from international political disinformation expert Nina Jankowicz for the fall Frank Church Institute Conference. Martin said that the higher profile of an endowed position can add up to grant money, graduate students, visiting experts and community impact.
“While an endowed position begins as a way to honor a person for their professional achievement, it should end or function as a way to bring status and energy to the entire community,” she said.
Strong Programs and New Facilities
The Intermountain Bird Observatory has brought well-deserved notoriety to Boise State. Located at a confluence of bird migration patterns, Southwest Idaho is an ideal location for tracking birds, studying their behavior and observing their roles in the ecosystem. Greg Kaltenecker co-founded the observatory in 1992 and has since become its Diane and Winston Moore Family Endowed Executive Director.
Under Kaltenecker’s leadership, the observatory has trained scores of students and young scientists and conducted avian research. It also has undergone a facilities expansion at the Diane Moore Nature Center that will grow its reach among the thousands of K-12 students who visit the center. Endowing Kaltenecker’s directorship allowed the observatory to redirect money to other staff, programs and projects, including purchasing the location of the center outright. More recently, when IBO used $40,000 of endowment funds to conduct a feasibility study for a side channel on the Boise River, Micron donated more than $1.5 million in in-kind gifts to build it.
“Now that’s a great return on investment,” Kaltenecker said. “The Diane Moore Nature Center, a year-round destination for community outreach and education, community stewardship, partnerships – all are possible because of the endowment.”
The motivations for donors to endow faculty are as numerous as the donors themselves. Some are in search of a legacy, want to honor a loved one, or add financial muscle to an area of study or research. Duane Stueckle of the Lori and Duane Stueckle Endowed Chair wanted to give Julia Oxford a reason to stay at Boise State.
After conversations with then-Boise State President Bob Kustra, Stueckle knew Oxford was in demand as a researcher and instructor, and would likely receive offers at other universities. Endowing her position was a way to give her the needed resources to make medical breakthroughs, set up a laboratory, and write and edit dozens of published papers.
Stueckle made a $2 million gift, describing the move as a “force multiplier” that led to Oxford bringing in even more grants to the university.
“We kept Julia at Boise State and progressed in the field of biology research, which can have such an impact. That alone justified it, and we hit the jackpot,” Stueckle said.
Endowments at Boise State:
6 endowed chairs
7 endowed professorships
20 endowed directorships and fellowships
— By Harrison Berry