Dr. John Keiser was Boise State’s fourth president from 1978 to 1991. Keiser majored in Social Science with a minor in French at Eastern Illinois University, and earned his Master’s degree and Ph.D. in history at Northwestern University. He served as the Provost of then Sangamon State University, now the University of Illinois at Springfield. He was an extensively published historian, with a focus on the state of Illinois and a passion for public affairs. He embraced a statewide public affairs mission both at Boise State and later at Missouri State University, where he served as president from 1993-2005.
His tenure as president saw the construction of the Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, The Pavilion (now Taco Bell Arena), and the Simplot-Micron Technology Center (now the Simplot Micron Advising and Success Hub). Keiser facilitated the creation of the Frank Church Chair of Public Affairs, the affiliation of Boise State’s radio station with National Public Radio, the creation of the Hemingway Western Studies Center, and established the first doctorate program in curriculum and instruction in the College of Education. Boise State’s two Rhodes Scholars, filmmaker Michael Hoffman (1979) and financial industry leader Karl Knapp (1981), both attended during this time.
Keiser also was involved in numerous changes regarding athletics. He oversaw the installation of the iconic blue turf, reinstated the Keith Stein Blue Thunder marching band, the transition from the Big Sky to a Division 1 athletic conference (Big West), and the creation of the Idaho Sports Medicine Institute and the Simplot Center for Athletic Excellence (adjacent to the Nicholson-Yanke Athletic Center).
Keiser was abruptly dismissed by the Idaho State Board of Education in 1991. Much of his presidency was controversial in that he frequently made decisions without seeking approval of the Board. The impetus for the dismissal was his decision to change athletics conferences from Big Sky to Big West. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding his departure, Keiser helped shape Boise State as a research institution and expand the campus to meet growing educational and community needs.
In 1991, he was Boise’s Citizen of the Year. In 2004, one of the two new residences halls was dedicated Keiser Hall (along with Taylor Hall). Boise State also has two scholarships in his name; Dr. John Keiser Public Affairs Scholarship and the John & Nancy Keiser Athletic Endowed Scholarship.
Dr. Keiser died on January 19, 2016.
“Former Boise State President John Keiser Passes Away.” Boise State Update. January 22, 2016.
“Obituary of Dr. John H. Keiser.” Idaho Statesman, January 22, 2016.