Satterlee talks about retirement and budget deficit in final address

Idaho State University President Kevin Satterlee addressed a crowd of students, families and staff Monday morning — the five-year president’s final fall address before his Dec. 31 retirement. The annual state of the university address marks the beginning of the new school year at ISU.

Kicking off Monday’s speech, Satterlee touted some of the university’s accomplishments: four semesters of enrollment growth, widespread campus revitalization efforts, new technology and innovation in the classroom, and a positive campus culture.

But with less than four months before he retires, Satterlee highlighted some long-term goals for the Pocatello-based college.

Campus sustainability

Kevin Satterlee

At last year’s fall address, Satterlee announced his plan to start ISU down the path to carbon neutrality. During Monday’s speech, the president said the plan is underway, but will need a long-term commitment.

“We’ve made progress,” Saterlee told a large crowd Monday morning. “A commitment to permanently change the way we do things takes time, takes planning, takes commitment.”

ISU is still in the “initial planning stages” of the sustainability plan, Satterlee said.

So far, the university has implemented STARS, an industry standard framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS will yield data for the university to build its larger sustainability plans off of. The university is also searching for a sustainability director, and is working with Idaho Power to assess energy consumption and develop a solar power plan.

“We believe small changes done well over time yield results,” Satterlee told the crowd Monday. “We are moving in the right direction, even if it’s not as fast as some would like.”

Budget deficit

Satterlee announced the university’s projected $16 million budget deficit — caused in part by waning enrollment, state budget cuts and plummeting revenue from the coronavirus pandemic — in Spring 2020. Since then, university leadership has been working to eliminate the deficit.

Satterlee announced Monday that the team is on its way to an “open, transparent and strategic” budget to support the university down the road.

“We’re better equipped now than we’ve ever been to address the budget deficit,” said Satterlee.

He assured the crowd that there’s no need for concern. But, the university will be taking “reasonable action” to fill budget needs — starting with a hiring freeze for the new fiscal year.

The pause will allow leadership to examine vacant roles for their strategic value before rehiring. The university will reduce its immediate salary spend, and only rehire positions that fit within the school’s long-term goals.

“By doing the hiring pause in a strategic way,” Satterlee said, “we avoid the thing everybody is worried about — we avoid layoffs, we avoid furloughs and those types of budget-cutting measures.”


Satterlee, 55, addressed his own retirement plans during Monday’s speech.

The 13th university president announced his retirement in June, after five years at ISU. He will depart Dec. 31.

Satterlee reflected on his career — he was the youngest graduate in his law class, the youngest person to be named chief legal officer to the State Board of Education and was the youngest to be named as general counsel at Boise State University.

“I think I’ve been too young for every job I’ve ever had,” he said, laughing. “To me, it makes sense when people think I’m too young to retire now, too. The answer is: But I’m gonna.”

Satterlee expressed gratitude to the ISU family for allowing him to serve Idaho students. But his 30-year career in high-stress, high-demand jobs has taken a toll, he said. “I am ready to move forward with the next phase of life.”

He’ll use his retirement to travel and spend more time with family, including his newborn grandchild.

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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