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Boise State Mourns Death of Former President John Keiser

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Dr. John Keiser - BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY


John Keiser, former Boise State president and staunch advocate for campus growth, died at his home in Boise Jan. 21. He was 79.

Boise State officials remembered Keiser as the man who oversaw a period of change at the urban university. His tenure at Boise State began in 1978 and continued for 13 years, until his sudden dismissal by the Idaho State Board of Education in 1991.

Keiser oversaw construction of the building now known as Taco Bell Arena, the Morrison Center and the Student Union Building. He is also credited with setting the foundation for Boise State's progression into Division 1 football in 1996. His name was added to the university’s hall of fame in 2007.

A native of Mountain Olive, Ill., Keiser received his bachelor’s of science degree in history from Eastern Illinois University, as well as a master’s and doctorate in history from Northwestern University. Keiser taught history at Northwestern, Westminster College in Fulton, Eastern Illinois and the University of Illinois Springfield. 

Keiser's persistent focus on expansion at Boise State, specifically the growth of the football program, led to occasional tangles with the Board of Education. In September 1991, the state board abruptly fired Keiser, despite robust support for the president from Boise State students and alumni. 

After his departure from the university, Keiser served one year as acting president of the University of Illinois, Springfield. Later,he served as president at Missouri State University from 1993 to his retirement in 2005. He ultimately returned to Boise and occasionally retreated to a family cabin in Pine. Keiser is survived by wife Nancy and three sons.