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Gift of $2.5 million to create history professorship

An estate gift will honor a popular College of Idaho history professor and establish a fully endowed professorship dedicated to outstanding teaching in world history.

The $2.5 million gift, which has yet to be realized from an anonymous donor, will create the Franklin Specht Chair in History in honor of the professor emeritus who taught history courses at The College of Idaho for more than three decades.

C of I President Marv Henberg noted that the teaching of history has been a strength of The College of Idaho since its founding, with numerous C of I history students achieving success in business, public service, writing and other fields. Most recently, in November 2012, recent graduate and history major Amanda Frickle was named the College’s seventh Rhodes Scholar.

“These student successes are made possible by the dedication of outstanding faculty members such as Professor Specht,” Henberg said. “I am delighted that this gift will help ensure that College of Idaho students will, in perpetuity, continue to enjoy the benefits of excellent professors who are committed to teaching.”

The announcement of the Franklin Specht Chair in History comes on the heels of the College’s successful completion of a $2.2 million initiative to establish an endowed chair in Judaic studies. That effort concluded earlier this month with the receipt of gifts creating the Ray Neilsen-Howard Berger Chair in Judaic Studies and its associated Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Lecture Series. In December 2012, the C of I announced another estate gift to create a fully-endowed professorship, the Berringer Chair in Writing and Rhetoric.

“The College of Idaho is dedicated first and foremost to outstanding teaching, and that’s something our graduates treasure about their C of I experience,” Henberg said. “The creation of these endowed professorships demonstrates the deep level of personal interaction and mentoring that is fostered between C of I students and faculty.”

Specht came to The College of Idaho in 1958, and while his specialty was ancient Greek and Roman history, he taught courses in a wide variety of subjects, including Chinese, Russian, Japanese and Mexican history.

In establishing the gift, the donor credited Specht’s freshman Western Civilization course, in particular, for stimulating an interest in a subject the donor previously found tedious. The donor said “Professor Specht’s infectious enthusiasm for his subject provided me a foundation for the enjoyment of history that has served me well both professionally and personally in the lifelong and elusive pursuit of becoming an educated person.”

Specht developed a reputation for delving into the hearts and personal dilemmas of historical figures, showing his students how to relate those figures’ actions to each student’s own experiences. Before retiring after 32 years in the classroom, Specht also led several trips to Europe and Africa, enabling C of I students to experience first-hand the history of Rome, Egypt and Greece.

More than a decade ago, Specht also helped establish a scholarship fund in his name which annually benefits two C of I history students.

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another ten Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.