This story is included in the most recent issue of Quest Magazine, the College's twice-yearly Alumni publication. To view the entire issue online, or to view longer-form "Quest Extra" pieces, click here.
The College’s innovative curriculum, PEAK, at its essence is a modern way of delivering the broad, liberal arts education that was championed by the College’s founder, Dr. William Judson Boone. PEAK, while directing students to gain proficiency in at least one major and three minors across a broad spectrum of study in four years, bears the image of the founder himself. Those who know PEAK best will tell you: Boone was PEAK long before PEAK was conceived.
The author of the College’s official history account “The College of Idaho 1891-1991: A Centennial History,” Dr. Louie Attebery ’50 affirmed that Boone’s life and interests, which included being president of the College for its first 44 years, mirrored the liberal arts core and its blend of humanities and sciences. Part scientist, part photographer, part clergy member, part historian, Boone was the original College of Idaho Way.
“What he was doing was putting together in an imaginative and creative way, the way he was educated,” Attebery said. “He was able to harmonize his scientific impulses with the humanities approach given to him … by way of the Presbyterian church.”
“You get your philosophy, your history, your science, your mathematics, your languages,” he continued. “All you have to do is continue to sell it. It may be refined, it may have another public relations tag from time to time, but the essence is steady.”
Attebery taught English at the College from 1961 to 1999 and is an emeritus member of the Board of Trustees. Having taught hundreds of alumni during his 38 years of instruction at the College, Attebery points to many examples of students who flourished over a broad spectrum of disciplines, quickly naming off graduates like Joan Houston Hall ‘68 and George Venn ‘67, and specifically pointing to the Rhodes Scholars he instructed: Jim Roelofs ’69, Tom McFadden ’68 and Mike Woodhouse ’87. All these students were encouraged in, and capable of, becoming proficient in multiple areas of study across the humanities and sciences, no matter the declared major.
“The College has been this way since its founding. It’s been called different things, and different things were stressed from time to time, but it’s no different from the education I received and the education my students received,” Attebery said.
It would have made sense that Attebery, an English student who graduated with honors from the College in 1950, would have had many literature-centered mentors. Yet one of the first he speaks of is legendary biology professor Dr. Lyle Stanford, demonstrating the importance of a cross-disciplinary focus to feed the entire being.
“Why be human if you can’t be totally human?” Attebery asks. “And being totally human means that you accept mathematics, you accept physics, you accept chemistry, but it’s all part of what people do and what’s good for them. You begin with the fact that they’re human, and then you try not to spoil it but to develop it, to let it grow.”
Now that PEAK is into its second decade, Attebery continues to endorse the concept because it has been part of The College of Idaho Way since the beginning: one major, three minors, developed over four years across multiple disciplines. “The shape may be somewhat different, but the content is solid and enduring.”
The College of Idaho has a 130-year-old legacy of excellence. The College 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 www.collegeofidaho.edu.