Skip to main content

Our History

On October 7, 1891, The College of Idaho held its first class for two students inside a Presbyterian church. Since that historic day, the College has grown to over 1,000 students while continuing to build upon the mantra of founding President William Judson Boone: “Let them come, let them all come, and we will see what they can do.”

Boone presided over the school as its president for 45 years before his death in 1936 and his impact and legacy are still prominent on the campus today.  The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators.

The College has also awarded 246 honorary degrees as of May 2017, including J.A. & Kathryn Albertson, Velma Morrison, Cecil Andrus, Phil Batt, J.R. Simplot, Lord Halifax and Alan Dershowitz.  The entire list, year-by-year, is available by clicking here.

You can learn more about the history of The College of Idaho by visiting the Robert E. Smylie Archives, located on the second floor of Sterry Hall.  The mission of the Smylie Archives is to collect, preserve, and organize historical materials of particular interest to the students, faculty, alumni, and friends of The College of Idaho. The Smylie Archives is a research facility dedicated to augmenting the resources and liberal arts curriculum of the College.  

In the Smylie Archives ...

The Photographs of William Judson Boone (1860-1936)

William Judson Boone was the first president of The College of Idaho. In addition to his work as a college president, he was a Presbyterian minister, botanist, teacher, "custodian" of the college grounds, husband and father. Not lacking for free time, Boone decided to chronicle all of the aforementioned activities in pictures. The photographs of W. J. Boone, taken during the late 1800s until his death in 1936, establish a visual history of Caldwell and its surrounding areas. Dr. Boone, through his photographs, documented the construction of the College of Idaho, Caldwell and Arrowrock Dam. His panoramic pictures, often 6" high and 48" wide, are excellent portrayals of landscapes, people, and places of interest during the early 1900s.

The Collection of Robert E. Smylie (1914-2004)

The archives is home to the personal papers of Governor Robert E. Smylie. Robert Smylie received his college education at the College of Idaho, graduating with an A.B. in 1938. He received a law degree from George Washington University in 1942. He enlisted in the U. S. Coast Guard Reserve in 1942 and married Lucille C. Irvine on December 4, 1943. Returning to Idaho after the war he became Assistant Attorney General in 1947 and in the same year was elected Idaho Attorney General, holding that office until 1954. Robert Smylie was elected Governor in 1954 and served for three consecutive terms.

The Collection of Senator Steve Symms

This collection includes the legislative papers of Senator Symms: U. S. House of Representatives 1972-1980, U. S. Senate 1980-1992.

Also visit Steve Symm's personal website

C of I's Ties to the Office of the Governor of Idaho

A TOTAL OF SEVEN of Idaho’s 32 governors have had close ties to  The College of Idaho. Two have been graduates, two were former faculty members,  and three served as trustees. 

FRANK STEUNENBERG (1861-1905) of Caldwell served two terms as  Idaho’s fourth governor.  Steunenberg  was on the first faculty at the C of I, having been drafted by founder Dr.  William Judson Boone in the fall of 1891.

JOHN T. MORRISON (1860-1915), was  another Caldwellite who had been on Dr. Boone’s first faculty at the C of I.  He served as Idaho's sixth governor.

H.C.  BALDRIDGE (1869-1947) of Parma, a chairman of the C of I board of trustees for a dozen  years, was Idaho’s 14th governor, serving two terms from 1927 to  1931.

ROBERT  E. SMYLIE, a member of the Class of 1938, was the first alumnus of the  C of I to be elected governor. The 23rd governor, Smylie  (1914-2004) served three consecutive four-year terms (1955-1967), the first Idaho governor to do so.

CECIL D. ANDRUS, born in Oregon in 1931, another former chairman of the C of I’s board of trustees, was the  longest-serving governor of Idaho. First elected as Idaho’s 25th  governor in 1970 and reelected in 1974, Andrus resigned in 1977 to become  Secretary of the Interior for four years during the administration of President  Jimmy Carter. Andrus returned to Idaho and was elected to a third term as  governor in 1986. He was reelected to an unprecedented fourth term in 1990.

PHILIP  E. BATT, becoming Idaho’s 29th chief executive in 1995. Also a  former state legislator, state senator, and lieutenant governor, Batt served as  a C of I trustee from 1974 to 1982.

C.L. "BUTCH" OTTER, Idaho’s 32nd  governor, received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the  College of Idaho in 1967. Otter, born in Caldwell in 1942, served four terms as  Idaho's Lieutenant Governor - longer than anyone in Idaho history. He  served in the Idaho House of Representatives  for two terms (1973-1976). He served three terms in Congress representing  Idaho's 1st District (2000-2006).