About The College of Idaho’s 125th Anniversary

about us Like all great days, Wednesday, October 7, 1891, came in due order. It was a typical Idaho day, calm and full of autumn sunshine when, promptly at 2 o’clock p.m., the faculty of the proposed school was seen to gather itself into the small lecture room of the Presbyterian church. This corps of teachers was composed of young, ambitious men and women, graduates of diverse institutions of learning, among whom may be mentioned Frank Steunenberg, John T. Morrison, John C. Rice, E.E. Maxey, Carrie S. Blatchley, Chas. A. Hand and William Judson Boone.

This ponderous array of intellect was arranged on one side of the little room while on the other side sat two little trembling candidates for higher education in the person of Misses Lillian Potter and Minnie Reed. What passed through the minds of these victims as they viewed the dimensions of the opposing forces, the historian cannot say. The suspense was not long. The Book was opened, the 4th chapter of Proverbs read, “Hear ye children the instruction of a father.” A fervent prayer and the Christian college had been opened with religious exercises.

Then it was that the tons of mental energy, long pent up, now made doubly active by the presence of kindred spirits, could no longer be controlled. The wheels began to turn, the molecular concepts to bump each other, and as a result, several explosions in the shape of extemporaneous speeches, prepared beforehand showing “as to how the sage-brush is fast disappearing from the plains, the prune and alfalfa are taking its place, so ought ignorance and superstition to be eradicated from the minds of our youth and knowledge and righteousness to be planted therein. This to do, we the faculty of The College of Idaho have set ourselves.”

After assigning tasks to the two students and prolonged congratulations, the first exercises of The College of Idaho became history. During the year, the school attendance numbered 19.

So reads the first chapter of The College of Idaho’s storied history. Much has changed since that day, but the College’s commitment to academic excellence and outstanding teaching remains at the heart of the Caldwell campus. For 125 years, the College has grown and flourished, all the while striving to prepare its students to lead productive and fulfilling lives.

After 19 students attended that first year of classes, the College’s enrollment quickly grew into the dozens and, soon, the hundreds. Through two World Wars, the Great Depression and countless other challenges, the College has survived and its graduates have thrived, becoming leaders and innovators in business, science, education, politics, athletics, the arts and all manner of professional fields.

Today, the institution that began in a single-classroom church has grown into a historic and vibrant liberal arts campus. In recent years, the C of I has implemented the innovative PEAK Curriculum, celebrated its seventh Rhodes Scholar and continued to add new programs, buildings, lectureships and co-curricular activities that enhance the College’s academic legacy and close-knit community.

It would be easy to say that the founding faculty had no idea what the College would become when they gathered on that historic October afternoon. But if they could look into the classrooms of today, they would no doubt be proud to see that The College of Idaho remains a place where caring professors sow the seeds of knowledge into the young minds of eager students. 

The College of Idaho thanks the countless men and women who over the years have given generously of their time, talent and treasure to make and keep the C of I such a special place. We invite you to join us in celebrating the College’s 125th anniversary this academic year!