| 03.21.2018

Leading a school and a family — President Chuck Staben reflects on family life while leading UI


Fathers take over the University of Idaho during Dads’ Weekend, and some have traveled farther than others.

But one father has been here for a while — the president of the university.

Chuck Staben began his work as the president of UI two-and-a-half years ago, but this is far from his first experience working in a college environment.

Chuck said he met the woman who would eventually become his wife, Mary Beth Staben, while they attended graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley.

“I met my wife in the dining hall at Berkeley in 1978,” Chuck said. “And we got married in 1982. We’ve been married for 35 wonderful years.”

Chuck said when he and Mary Beth found out they were going to be parents, they were excited. He said he quickly realized there was so much more to being a father than he had ever anticipated.

“One of the funny things about having a child, especially your first child, is that you’re more focused on the process of having a child,” Chuck said. “Then all of a sudden you actually have one, and they’re so much responsibility — I think the enormity of that isn’t apparent to you as a young adult.”

Mary Beth said Chuck has always been an excellent father. She said he may not be the softest, most touchy-feely dad in the world, but he is always willing to makes sacrifices for his children.

When Mary Beth decided go to medical school after the birth of their third child, Chuck took on the role as the main caregiver for three children who were all under the age of 6.

“Medical school is very consuming timewise,” Chuck said. “So, I spent a lot of time with my kids. I had the unusual experience of being the direct primary caregiver during that formidable time.

Chuck said his two sons are currently pursuing doctorates. His daughter just finished working at Yale University as a research economist and now plans to attend school at UI.

Chuck said even though all of his children are in school, he has only been able to attend Dads’ Weekend for one of his sons. He said that experience showed him why Dads’ Weekend is so important to students and fathers alike.

“It was a lot of fun seeing him in a new environment, and seeing him having new experiences,” Chuck said. “It also helped me feel better about where he was, as a student and as a person.”

Chuck said he believes being a father impacts how he does his job, and how he observes the issues brought to him.

“By the time one becomes a president, you’ve probably already had a student in college,” Chuck said. “So, you understand a lot of the concerns that the students and parents have.”

Mary Beth said she also believes being a father also directly influences the way Chuck makes decisions that affect UI students.

“Once you become a parent, you only see things as a parent,” Mary Beth said.

Andrew Ward can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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