Bob Kustra

President of Boise State University

Bob Kustra is the host of Reader's Corner a weekly radio show that features lively conversations with some of the nation’s leading authors about issues and ideas that matter today.

Dr. Bob Kustra is president of Boise State University, the largest public university in Idaho, with an enrollment of nearly 20,000 students served by 2,800 faculty and staff.

Now in his ninth year, he leads the university in a time of dynamic growth in student enrollment, new construction, fundraising and research. Long heralded for its devotion to classroom teaching, Boise State has expanded its mission to become an emerging metropolitan research university of distinction..

With a long and distinguished career in public service in Illinois, Dr. Kustra served two terms as lieutenant governor, following 10 years in the legislature. He also chaired the Illinois Board of Higher Education, responsible for funding and oversight of the state’s nine public universities. Dr. Kustra’s background in radio includes four years as host of a talk show on WLS-AM in Chicago.

Prior to joining Boise State, Dr. Kustra served as president of Eastern Kentucky University and the Midwestern Higher Education Commission. He has held faculty positions at the University of Illinois-Springfield, Loyola University of Chicago, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and Northwestern University.

Ways To Connect

Baseball has inspired many works of fiction – including Chad Harbach’s bestselling novel, The Art of Fielding. But while the action is centered around a college team and its star shortstop, Henry Scrimshander, this is much more than a baseball book. The fallacy of perfection, the inevitability of change and the power of friendship are just a few of the multi-layered themes explored in the novel, which is now out in paperback.

This interview was originally broadcast in November, 2005.

In 2005, Reader's Corner had the privilege of welcoming author Samuel Pisar to the program.  He was one of the youngest survivors of the Holocaust, an adviser to President John F. Kennedy, a friend and admirer of Idaho Senator Frank Church and a world renowned international lawyer. Over the course of an hour – twice as long as the interview was scheduled to last  –  Dr. Pisar shared stories from his extraordinary life, including how he survived the Nazi death camps and finally managed to escape.

Those of us who grew up playing the board game “Monopoly” likely remember the thrill of landing on an up-for-grabs Boardwalk or Park Place, and buying the pricey properties with our stash of brightly colored fake money. We might also recall the feeling of trepidation when we landed on those same properties after they had been purchased and improved by someone else, knowing we would have to pay an exorbitant rental fee before we could once again pass “Go” and collect our much-needed $200.

This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in February, 2015

In the world of empire building, success is a numbers game.  That’s the premise of a book by today’s guest, Jacob Soll, titled The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations.

On July 8th, 1879, the USS Jeannette left San Francisco and sailed northward toward uncharted Arctic waters. Its ambitious destination: the North Pole, a place that had captured the imagination of 19th century scientists, explorers and the public, but that remained shrouded in mystery and wild scientific speculation. If the expedition succeeded, the American ship and its crew would be the first to discover what really existed at the top of the world.

This interview was first broadcast in January of 2015.

Everyone knows how to gain physical strength – go the gym, lift weights, do calisthenics, or engage in other muscle-building activities. 

But what about gaining mental acuity? Is it possible to increase intelligence, and if so, how?

Dan Hurley explores this question in his book; Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power.

For as long as humans have walked the Earth, we’ve been making changes to it – oftentimes with little or no comprehension about the far-reaching consequences of our actions. But in her book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert opens our eyes to the powerful and possibly catastrophic mass extinction unfolding right in front of us. 

This interview was originally broadcast in September of 2013.

On June 17th, 1775, a ragtag army of colonial patriots faced off against the most powerful army of the 18th century. Their goal was to prevent the British regulars from occupying the hills surrounding Boston in order to put an end to a months-long siege of the city. What ensued proved to be the bloodiest battle of the Revolution, and marked a tipping point for the colonists.

For nearly a century, The Bassett Furniture Company was the center of life in the town of Bassett, Virginia, just as its wealthy namesake family was the foundation of the town’s prosperity.

But that all changed in the 1980s when cheaper Chinese products began flooding the American furniture market, threatening the Bassett family legacy and the livelihoods of hundreds of Virginians.

This interview was first broadcast in December of 2014.

Back in the early 1930s, Chicago had the distinction of being the fourth largest metropolis in the world. The city was a melting pot of race, ethnicity and culture, and a place where some of the world’s most celebrated architects, writers, musicians and entrepreneurs would find their inspiration.

In his book, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream, Thomas Dyja makes the case that much of what defined America, particularly from the end of World War II until 1960, came from Chicago.  

Until now, human intelligence has had no rival. But as Artificial Intelligence continues to advance, we should ask ourselves: Can we coexist with computers whose intelligence dwarfs our own?

In his book, “Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era,” James Barrat peers into the future to explore the perils of developing super intelligent machines. And he extends a heartfelt invitation to join what he calls “the most important conversation humanity can have.”

This is an encore interview and was first broadcast in June, 2014.

June 6, 2015 marks the 71st anniversary of D-Day, the invasion on the beaches of Normandy that turned the tide of fighting in World War II Europe and led to an Allied victory. 

John C. McManus, offers an insider’s look at just one of the five beaches taken by Allied troops in his book,  "The Dead and Those About to Die — D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach."

The story told by Jan Jarboe Russell in her book, “The Train to Crystal City,” will have a familiar ring to those who know about the World War II internment camp at Minidoka, Idaho.

But Crystal City, Texas, differed from camps such as Minidoka, which held Japanese and Japanese Americans relocated from the Pacific Coast after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Crystal City’s purpose is revealed in the book’s subtitle, “FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II.”

If you’re looking for an engaging summer read that makes you laugh even as it explores big themes involving family, loss, disability, and the redemptive power of a good road trip, then Jonathan Evison’s novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving may fit the bill.

This interview was broadcast first in January of 2013.

A child who heads off to kindergarten without knowing his colors or shapes may be considered academically unprepared for school.  But what if those measures mattered less, and the child's character mattered more?

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Two years later, the Berlin Wall was inexplicably opened, allowing East Germans free access to the West for the first time since 1961.

This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in September of 2013.

The power of sports to mend rifts between nations and establish bonds of friendship and understanding was put to the test in 1934, when a group of Major League baseball players – including Babe Ruth – traveled to Japan to play a series of 18 exhibition games in 12 cities.

This is an encore interview and was originally broadcast in October 2014.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s dedication and perseverance led to the preservation of some of our greatest national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife sanctuaries. Thanks to Roosevelt’s vision and foresight, our children’s grandchildren can enjoy species that in a not-too-distant past were threatened with extinction, and visit natural areas that today remain as pristine and untouched as they were a century or more ago.

The year is 1956. The place is a village outside Moscow. Boris Pasternak, Russia’s greatest living poet, hands a copy of his unpublished novel “Doctor Zhivago” to an Italian book scout intent on smuggling it out of the country. Understanding the risks of his action, Pasternak reportedly comments, “You are hereby invited to my execution.”

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