Bob Kustra recently stepped down as the president of Boise State University, after serving for 15 years. But Kustra had never even been to Boise — or to Idaho — until he became a candidate for the presidency in 2003. It was during that first visit to Boise, while staying at a hotel along the greenbelt, that he began to fall in love with the City of Trees.
“That’s a visit that I’ll never forget,” he says. “I decided to get on (the greenbelt) with my bike, and about 15 minutes later, I remember getting my cell phone out and calling my wife and saying, ‘I know I’m only one of 80 candidates at this time, but I’d like this job, and I’d like to live in this city.”
Kustra got the job and under his leadership, Boise State experienced tremendous growth. Student enrollment grew from around 18,500 students to more than 25,500. The campus grew physically as well, with $450 million in new construction, including the Micron Business and Economics Building, the Environmental Research Building and the Center for Fine Arts. Kustra says he’s most proud of that project, and in particular, the center’s forthcoming World Museum, which will feature a wall of video screens capable of bringing virtual versions of the world’s most respected art museums to the people of Boise.
“It’s going to allow students and adults alike to come into this room and tour art museums from around the world,” Kustra says. “We’re very excited about the prospect of a young kid, somewhere in the Treasure Valley or beyond, who will never see an art museum in France, or in Italy, being able to come into a room and have that art museum’s work recreated for him or her, right here in Boise, Idaho.”
Prior to his presidency at Boise State, Kustra served two terms as the lieutenant governor of Illinois, and before that, he served a decade in the Illinois General Assembly. Kustra says what he learned in politics helped him lead Boise State as well, particularly when talking to members of the Idaho Legislature.
“When I arrived in Boise, I could tell when I went to the legislature, and they read my bio, that they could relate to me, and there was somewhat of a symbiotic relationship,” Kustra says. “That was a very significant advantage for me that I think aided the university along the way.”
After representing the students and faculty of Boise State for a decade and a half, Kustra retired from Boise State last summer.
“I decided that it was definitely a good time to step down and give someone else the same incredible opportunity,” he says.
While he may have left Boise State, it may be premature to call Kustra a retiree.
“People have been asking me, whenever they run across me these days, ‘How do you like retirement?’ My answer is: I don’t know yet,” he says with a laugh. That’s because Kustra pens a weekly column for the Idaho Statesman and hosts a weekly radio show and podcast for Boise State Public Radio called Reader’s Corner.
“I’m really, at this stage of the game, as busy as I ever need to be, and I enjoy it,” Kustra says. “I probably spend a lot more time at my computer than I did as president, and a lot less time in meetings … and both of those are good.”
In July 2018, following 15 years as president of Boise State University, Bob Kustra stepped down to “give someone else the same incredible opportunity.” Prior to leading Boise State, Kustra was the president of Eastern Kentucky University. He also served two terms as Illinois’ lieutenant governor and served the people of Illinois for 10 years in the state legislature. Currently, he writes a weekly column for the Idaho Statesman and hosts Reader’s Corner, a weekly radio show on Boise State Public Radio.
Opening the Center for Fine Arts
Helping develop the College of Business and Economics
Improving Boise State’s enrollment management strategy
Building the BSU Athletics’ indoor facility and the football complex
Growing BSU’s baseball program
Creating the College of Innovation and Design