Letter from University of Idaho President Tim White - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Letter from University of Idaho President Tim White

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The Friday Letter

SPECIAL EDITION

May 23, 2007

Dear Students, Employees and Friends of the University of Idaho and the City of Moscow, Late last Saturday night, a lone gunman with a criminal and psychiatric record fired upon Moscow buildings and the police officers and citizens who tried to respond - including one of our students, who came out of his off-campus residence to help. The gunman killed himself at the end of the rampage, but not before taking three others permanently from us, and badly wounding still others. And so our community has been violated in a tragic and very personal way, and the violation is compounded by the fact that the crime played out not only on downtown and residential streets not far from campus, but within the sanctuary of a church.

As the glare of the news media shines on Moscow, we note with sadness the harsh reality that today grips all communities large and small, urban and rural, business, academic and residential: we are not always safe, and we cannot always trust those around us. Yet we must summon the will not to waiver in our commitment to having a safe and secure community in which to live, learn, discover, work and prosper. Indeed, Moscow is a wonderful, welcoming and proud community. There is remarkable resolve, collectively and individually, to reclaim our town from this and other recent, aberrant, yet very real events.

We mourn the loss of University of Idaho alumnus, former University Night Watch security supervisor and Moscow Police sergeant, Lee Newbill '82 - the first Moscow police officer to lose his life in the line of duty. Lee was well known and highly regarded by many students, faculty and staff. Official services are set for this Friday May 25th at 1:00 p.m. in the Kibbie Dome, which we have offered to our community for the afternoon. We also have opened our food service and residence halls - relatively unutilized during summer session - for the complimentary use of the law enforcement community as they gather. And the University, along with many others in the community, is providing counseling services to help the grieving process of those most deeply affected.

We express heartfelt sympathy and support for Lee's wife Becky, who also is a member of the University of Idaho alumni family, and to Lee's three adult children, parents, brother, three sisters, colleagues and friends. Our thoughts and prayers go as well to those who knew and loved two other Moscow citizens who were killed - Crystal Hamilton and Paul Bauer - and to Officer Bill Shields, Deputy Sheriff Brannon Jordan and University of Idaho senior Peter Husmann, who are recovering from wounds received.

I commend our multi-agency law enforcement community, city leadership, Emergency Medical Services professionals, and physicians and staff at Gritman Medical Center who provided vital services throughout the unfolding and aftermath of this tragic event.

A few final thoughts for us to consider as we move forward together from difficult times:

First, let us retain perspective through knowledge of facts. One hard fact of both recent cases in Moscow, and the one in Blacksburg, Virginia, is that whenever and wherever mental illness combines with lethal weapons, we all live at heightened risk. Alcohol also may have helped fuel the violence last weekend. However, another fact is that historically there is a very low incidence of violent crime within our community, which supports the assertion of city, University and law enforcement officials - still strongly held today - that violence of this nature is indeed an anomaly in Moscow.

Second, it is critically important that we retain our mutual bond as good, forthright and resilient, yet sadly sometimes fragile and imperfect, humans.

We are caring people, living in a very special and close-knit community - one in which we look out for and support each other in good times and bad. I know that we will continue to do just that. I see it happening already, in our outreach to those directly and indirectly affected by this week's news, in Moscow and beyond.

My closing thought today is a recognition of the many blessings we enjoy. Our world today is baffling, frightening, complex, maddening, bewildering, and many corners of it are faced with horrific strife and turmoil. It also can be an intriguing, welcoming, supportive, loving and kind world that offers opportunities, sustenance and challenges. Strong communities in general, and universities in particular, provide beacons of hope for a safe, secure and prosperous, non-violent world. We must remain firm in this hope and aspiration.

Tim White President

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