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DePoe inaugurated as SKC president

PABLO — For his inauguration as Salish Kootenai College president, Robert DePoe III walked into the Joe McDonald Health and Fitness Center escorted by SKC instructors Linda King and Corky Clairmont in regalia, Frank Stanger’s SKC drumming class and the Veteran Warrior Society. 

“It’s the first ever inauguration of a president at Salish Kootenai College,” Rob McDonald, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Communication Director and emcee, said at the ceremony on Nov. 20.

“I’m speaking from between two tepees,” he said, opening his arms to encompass the stage, its front edge covered with a buffalo hide, lit by Pendleton-blanket draped lights and flanked by the two lighted tepees.

Jim Durglo, SKC Board Chair and head of CSKT Forestry, and his older brother Joe, CSKT Tribal Council Chair, both spoke, welcoming DePoe. 

“It’s a grand occasion,” Joe Durglo said.

“(SKC) is a vision created by Dr. Joe McDonald — the dream of providing the best education we can for our community and our students ... Robert, we’re glad you’re here. A strong leader brings certainty.”

Also addressing the audience of family members, students, friends, dignitaries and SKC staff were Jason Adams, SKC alumni and 

S & K Housing Authority director, and Antonio Trembly, SKC Student Senate president. 

Trembly said he was unsure about college when he first came to SKC, but instructors like King were kind to him.

Anita Big Spring, administrative assistant for President DePoe, read a letter written by his mother, Becky DePoe. The letter told of an 11-year-old boy who’d been taught to tell people who called when his parents were gone that they couldn’t come to the phone, but he would take a message and have his parents return the call. Becky DePoe said a doctor called about one of Robert’s brothers, who was hospitalized. After three queries, Robert remained firm and polite; his mother could not come to the phone but he would give her the message. 

That’s Robert, the note said, trustworthy and not to be shaken. 

Robert was presented with a beaded buckskin vest from the SKC Board of Directors and a mantle made by his Uncle Tony, with beaded bison and bison tracks.

The inauguration felt warm and welcoming; the audience filled with Robert’s family, students, staff and visiting dignitaries.

President Emeritus Joe McDonald introduced Robert and passed along the “president’s mirror,” which has hung on the office door of the SKC president’s office since the college began in Ronan.   

During Robert’s address, after thanking his family, friends and students, he announced SKC’s new Center for Tribal Research and Education in Ecosystem Sciences, “designed to take the model of education, mentoring and tribally focused research that has worked so well here on campus and expand it nationwide.” TREES will provide internships for Native American Natural Resource students throughout the United States, according to Robert. 

He is also establishing an SKC Bison Ambassador Leadership program for students, “to showcase our student body.”

Beginning winter quarter 2014, SKC will offer a welding course in cooperation with the Northwest Ironworkers and Employers Apprenticeship and Training Trust.

At the end of his speech, a sometimes tearful Robert said, “It’s good to be home ... in the shadow of the mountains.” 




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