The Neilsen Story

Supporting an Environment Where Minds Grow

Over his 29 years at the College of Idaho, Professor Howard Berger has influenced countless students, urging them to explore human rights, diversity and social justice through his courses on Jewish history and the Holocaust. Ray Neilsen '88 was one of those students. Today, Ray and his wife Nancy live in Vicksburg, Miss., where Ray is chairman of the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation and former chairman of Ameristar Casinos Inc., one of the nation's leading gaming and entertainment companies.

The Neilsen Foundation has contributed $500,000 toward the establishment of the an endowed Chair in Judaic Studies and lecture series honoring Professor Howard Berger. "Dr. Berger introduced his students to culture and concepts that we hardly knew about living in Idaho," said Ray. "This lectureship, inspired by Dr. Berger's career, is most appropriate and I am honored to be one of the supporters."

When fully funded, the Chair will support a permanent faculty position at the College, and underscore our traditional strength in religious and historical studies, long a significant part of the C of I's humanities curriculum. Indeed, our founder, William Judson Boone, believed that a life well lived requires the ability to see beyond personal and local circumstances. The Chair in Judaic Studies promises to have a dramatic positive impact on discussions of tolerance, human rights and interfaith awareness in our region, and the importance of our endowed chair was recognized with a $500,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The College of Idaho has produced more Rhodes Scholars, Marshall Scholars, Goldwater Scholars Pulitzer Prize winners, Academy Award winners and governors by percentage of graduates than virtually any other college in the nation.  Our graduates are accepted into medical schools at almost twice the rate of sister Idaho colleges and universities. Advance The Legacy will provide resources to encourage a vibrant exchange of ideas across our campus and will extend the C of I experience for generations to come.

Learn more about the College of Idaho's Chair in Judaic Studies in this YouTube video featuring Dr. Berger.