Alumnus, volunteer recruiter, donor, U of I champion
Wherever he is, volunteer recruiter Bob Costi ’73 champions U of I to potential students and even established a scholarship to encourage Oregon and Washington students to attend.
Bob Costi ’73 never takes a vacation from recruiting future Vandals. In fact, Costi recruits while on vacation. Whether he’s touring vineyards in Spain or driving along the Oregon coastline, he always takes the time to stop at high schools and businesses to encourage students to visit the University of Idaho campus.
A Ph.D. recipient, Costi has “been in love with the U of I since high school.” During a time when few colleges offered international business degrees, the faculty went out of its way to provide a unique doctoral international business program for him that blended history, political science and business courses.
“U of I is like a utopia,” he said. “Other schools I visited were cold and unfriendly, but U of I was welcoming and beautiful.”
When I tell students about the great colleges and programs at U of I, their faces light up.
Now a retired director of business administration and international business professor from Eastern Oregon University and a former president of Oregon Coast Community College, Costi joined colleagues Brian Hill and Karleen Mays as U of I recruiting volunteers in his hometown of Portland, Ore. The three of them divided the Portland region into three areas and identified high schools and community colleges to visit. For about five years it was an active, organized student recruiting system primarily developed for volunteers. The system generated a tremendous amount of student interest.
“The kids from the bigger city don’t know much about the University of Idaho,” he said. “When I show them photos of our beautiful campus and tell them about our great colleges and programs, their faces light up.”
With a beach home in Rockaway Beach, Ore., Costi and his wife, Betsy, are regular coastal visitors.
“Many of the students whom I meet live in small rural communities,” he said. “When we visit the coast, I like to schedule appointments with nearby high schools and community colleges.”
After telling students about the rural program opportunities, land management and animal science programs, these students become very interested. With few universities visiting them, they “were all ears” when Costi spoke.
Costi’s friends call him the “bridge recruiter” because, as president of Oregon Coast Community College, he sometimes recruited homeless students camped under bridges in Oregon coastal communities.
In starting a new community college in Lincoln County, Ore., Costi said it was critical he identify potential students. Two unique groups he became aware of were high school dropouts and runaways. They would oftentimes congregate under highway bridges.
Costi said just taking the time to speak with these young people and show them that higher education is possible was enough to turn their lives around. As enrollment grew, these college offerings became some of the institution’s mainstays.
As a U of I volunteer recruiter, he applied that same determination to encouraged students to make a trip to Moscow. Once here, he said, he knew many of them would be “sold on it” like he was.
“If you just talk to these kids, they will listen,” he said. “I love hearing their stories and sharing mine. I show them that U of I offers more than just green grass; it creates this indescribable passion to pursue an education and better your life.”
Today, the prospective student interest in the Portland metropolitan area has increased substantially, requiring greater exposure for U of I. Now, in addition to Bob and the other volunteers, full-time Vandal recruiters visit the high schools and community colleges.
In addition to his volunteer work and regular gifts to U of I, the Costis’ will provides for the creation of the Robert and Betsy Costi Scholarship Endowment. Their goal is to attract students with financial need from Oregon and Washington to study in the College of Business and Economics at Idaho’s oldest public university.
“The University of Idaho still excites me today as much as it did in the late 1960s,” Costi said. “I am grateful to the university for opening doors for me and am blessed to give back. Higher education is extraordinary, and no one should take it for granted.”
Article by Rosemary Anderson, Donor Relations and Stewardship
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