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College of Idaho receives $1 million gift from Smith family for campus welcoming arches

August 15, 2018
A rendering of the $1 million Smith Welcoming Arch project, depicting the arch as will be seen on Cleveland Boulevard and 21st Street.

College of Idaho trustee Mary Smith and her husband, C of I alum and former trustee Dr. James Smith ’64, already showed their generosity to the College with a $1 million gift to complete the second phase of renovations at Boone Science Hall in 2012. But the Smiths’ generosity will not stop at Boone Hall thanks to yet another $1 million gift – this time to fund the construction of connected welcoming arches across the C of I’s campus.

The Smiths approached the College with the idea for the project in January 2018, inspired by the welcoming arches present at Mary’s alma mater, the University of California-Berkeley. The $1 million gift will allow for the construction of three arches, each at different corners of campus, including 21st Street, the corner of 20th Street and Cleveland Boulevard, and the corner of Indiana Avenue and Cleveland Boulevard. Each arch will include additional decorative fencing to connect each area of campus.

“Jim and Mary Smith have been extraordinary in their generosity to The College of Idaho,” C of I Co-President Jim Everett stated. “From Filer and of very modest means, Jim came to the College and went on to become one of the pioneers in cardiology in Idaho. He has never forgotten the role the College played in the life he has had. Mary herself is a very engaged Trustee and this project could not have been imagined without her.”

The Smiths are no strangers to supporting the College. James Smith, a groundbreaking cardiologist at St. Luke’s Boise Heart Clinic, stated that he was previously inspired to give financially to the College by his positive experiences with faculty members during his time as a student, including Dr. Lyle Stanford ’33 and Dr. Patricia Packard ’49, both biology professors who had a profound impact on him as an undergraduate.

“I truly believe that the College was a major factor in any success I have achieved,” Jim said. “The College has continued to be the same wonderful place that I enjoyed over fifty years ago and it is my sincere wish that current and future students have the opportunity to receive the same nurturing and superb instruction I had the privilege of benefiting from years ago.”

Mary Smith has devoted her time and talents to the College as a member of its Board of Trustees. Recalling the significance of the welcoming arch at UC-Berkeley, Mary said the addition of welcoming arches to C of I’s campus would be another way to announce the College to the community at large.

“One of my hobbies is oil painting,” Mary said. “When I first saw the back of the Cruzen-Murray Library, I thought of how beautiful the campus would be if it was framed with arches of its own. I knew the library would be the perfect backdrop for a gate.”

Richard Erne, C of I’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, said the Smiths came to the College with the idea on their own out of a desire to provide additional beautification to the campus. Erne recalled during the planning process Mary’s determination to provide the school that had played such a significant role in her and her husband’s lives with an entryway that would both honor her husband’s roots as well as install a memorable new detail to the College’s already aesthetically pleasing campus.

“Mary truly wanted to do something to recognize the impact her husband has made to the College and to Idaho medicine and honor his legacy,” Erne said. “Every step of the way, she has been engaged in this project.”  

Two Boise based firms are assisting the College in the construction of the arches. The design was helmed by Erstad Architects, the same firm behind the recent renovations of Voorhees Hall and Finney Hall on campus, while construction will be led by Kreizenbeck Constructors, who have previously worked with the College in the construction of its Cruzen-Murray Library and previous renovations of Simplot Dining Hall.

Erne said he anticipates construction to begin by the end of August with the goal to complete the arches before the beginning of next winter.

The College of Idaho has a 127-year-old legacy of excellence. 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, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit