Sunday, March 26, 2023

MY TURN: A plea to the NIC trustees

by SANDY EMERSON/Guest opinion
| March 9, 2023 1:00 AM

When I ran the Cd'A Area Chamber of Commerce from 1980 to 1987, when good folks and community and business leaders such as Bob Bemis of Northwest Timber, Harry Perry of GTE and Frank Henderson, past mayor of Post Falls, county commissioner and state senator, businesses and retailers had suffered through hard economic times. Businesses were closing, some forced out of business by high interest rates (18% and up). Spirits were down with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan foreshadowing war for the U.S., and paychecks for numerous support services and businesses stopped due to the closure of Bunker Hill and the smelter in the Silver Valley.

Main street, Sherman Avenue, looked bleak, with closed storefronts in every block, several in some blocks. The chamber had to move due to changes in the Second and Sherman location. Geraniums were coming to the chamber office site, but a pick of locations was available, for just paying the heat and light bills and the annual property taxes.

We were tasked with trying to recruit new industry and to try to keep the ones we had, so our kids could find work here at home when they completed their education and wanted to come back. As a business recruiting tool and an avenue for affordable education that was (and is) nimble enough to meet short-term needs of those businesses and industries (and students), North Idaho College was and is the best tool we had. A business and community asset that was, and has been, second to none.

My family is deeply involved and ingrained in the NIC culture and the educational product it presents, and the culture of opportunity it brings to the community.

First and foremost, my wife, Jeanne Emerson, taught full time in the English department for over 30 years, developing the writing center, and being named a top adviser in numerous years and disciplines. All three of the Emerson kids attended NIC, as did I for some evening classes. I helped work on college land acquisitions and waterfront improvements. My father, Tom Emerson, served on the board of trustees, and he and I were both named honorary alums with a plaque to prove it.

My brother, Tom, had his memorial services at an alumnus event and a concert was written and dedicated in his honor.

These are the kinds of things an institution such as this can and should do and be known for, and it has done and continues to do marvelous things for its students, faculty and staff, and the community as a whole.

Please do not do any more damage to its reputation, its many fine attributes, and to its stature in the region, state, and beyond, pursued and protected by generations of strong, committed boards of trustees, passionate in their belief in NIC as an institution on learning, character development and good citizenship.

Your damaging behavior has been an embarrassment and travesty for this institution and the entire community. North Idaho College is what it has been for going on a century, and it will survive your petty politics and despicable behavior. What agendas you have brought from other places not so committed to excellence and quality are not worthy of the positions you have come to tear down and destroy. It cannot and will not stand, when the good people of this community prevail in having you step down, and possibly, even seeing how important it can be to cooperate in restoring this great institution’s good, no, excellent, reputation and bringing its status and stature back to the community that loves it.

Sandy Emerson is a Coeur d'Alene resident.

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