Anthony Davis said he is ready to change the world.
Davis, a professor in the College of Natural Resources, along with the University of Idaho, received a $3.3 million donation from Tom Alberg and Judi Beck.
The donation makes Davis UI’s first, fully-funded endowed chair and covers the costs of a new classroom at the UI Franklin H. Pifkin Forest Nursery, provides graduate student research fellowships and creates a faculty excellence fund.
“In academic lingo, an endowed-chair comes from a donation — someone who makes an investment in the university,” Davis said. “Basically, this is the donors saying, ‘We like what they (CNR) do and the research they are conducting, we want to make sure they can keep doing research without running into financial problems.'”
Davis said this allows them to pursue their grand ideas, but continue to get things done with a lot more flexibility in how they operate.
“These are wonderful people who want to invest money in things that are going to change the world, change the environment and provide more opportunities for people,” he said.
Davis said after learning Alberg and Beck wanted to make a donation that would create better learning opportunities, as well as fund several other areas in his college, he was honored and felt proud to be part of UI and what they do here.
“We’re a small college, in a relatively small university, in a geographically diverse state,” Davis said. “We do fantastic work, are strong collectively and really good at what we do.”
Davis, director of the UI Franklin H. Pitkin Forest Nursery, said part of the donation money is covering the costs to build a classroom, which would assist in teaching, research and other nursery operations.
“The nursery is an amazing facility, but because it’s two miles from campus, it’s underused and underserved,” Davis said. “With a classroom, we can have labs out there, hold classes and create a unique learning opportunity for anyone.”
The Pitkin Nursery Production and Logistics Associate Kea Woodruff said although many students take field trips to the nursery, there is not a lot of space.
“We’re most excited about the fact that more students can come here, and we’ll have the space for hands-on activities, as well as more equipment for them to use,” Woodruff said.
She also said the Pitkin Nursery is one-of-a-kind, and the only training program in the Western United States.
“This grant gives us the opportunity to basically do research that nobody else is doing,” Woodruff said. “It’ll benefit the students that work here, CNR and the entire university.”
Davis said he wanted the classroom at the nursery to highlight what they could do on a sustainable level. Although this has been his passion project, he said, it is a team idea and a team effort.
“Almost all the building products have been donated by the Idaho Forest Products Commission, so the building is made entirely of Idaho wood, in a very exposed manner,” Davis said. “The floor boards have been harvested off of the experimental forest, doors and window trim are made from Douglas Fir and the exterior siding from Western Red Cedar and Western Whitewood trees — students are going to learn just from looking around.”
Davis said he thinks of this project as a whole-hearted connection between UI, the land, what UI does with research and how students learn from it.
“This isn’t just talking about sustainability, it’s living it,” Davis said. “It’s the closest thing we have to renewable resources on an operational scale.”
Davis, who also teaches graduate students, said another part of the donation will fund two of his students to conduct research at the Oxbow Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment in Carnation, Wash.
Not only will they live in Carnation conducting research at the Oxbow Center, Davis said, but they will hold seminars and teach people about native plants.
“With this donation, it allows me, along with UI, to recruit the very top potential graduate students,” Davis said. “Our program is strong, and now our funding is in line with our program.”
The extensive donation not only funded a large part of research done in the CNR, but also created a $100,000 faculty excellence fund in the College of Agricultural Life Sciences.
Steven Hacker, director of development for the CNR, said this fund will help their faculty and expand their program.
“Alberg and Beck set the standard for how much of an impact can be made at UI,” Hacker said. “If you want to really expand the university and provide students with the resources that will help expand those programs, you’ve got to go out and find people that believe in what you’re doing.”
Davis said overall this shows how important it is to work hard, and that the donation and project is due to the support of the entire college and the entire university.
“I don’t like being the front of it,” Davis said. “It’s not just me, this is a team thing. I’ve been very lucky — I work hard, but I’ve been lucky.”
Michelle Gregg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org