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Chuck Staben

Chuck Staben

Former president | University of Idaho, 2014-20 | Class of 1978

Chuck Staben doesn’t mean to brag but high school was a bit of a breeze for the Waukegan native.

College chemistry, not so much.

“In my first chemistry class, Professor Stephen Zumwalt challenged me in a way that I had not expected," says Staben, who earned his bachelor's in biochemistry from the UI in 1978 and was named president of the University of Idaho 36 years later.

"I had cruised through high school, but the rigor and imagination of his questions in Chemistry 107 challenged me. And, I found that his philosophy of challenging even the very best students in his classes influenced my own teaching when I became a professor, particularly in my teaching of genetics.

“Perhaps my favorite spot, as a freshman, was the racquetball challenge court in the IMPE building. I hung out there for hours, competing, watching and learning. Sadly, my career on the challenge court was ended by the need to study for organic chemistry as a sophomore.

“I still play racquetball today, with a standing challenge to the undergraduates at the University of Idaho — any student who can beat me will receive a free lunch. Only one loss in my first three years as president.”