HISTORY OF THE BOISE COMMITTEE

The Boise Committee on Foreign Relations (BoiseCFR) began in 1945 when interested local men responded to contact from the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The Council had been launched in 1921 in the aftermath of World War I to help expand U.S. understanding of foreign affairs.

In 1938, as war again loomed in Europe, the value of expanding understanding of foreign affairs into the United States hinterland became a priority. Local groups for informed discussion looked like a good method to the Council.

By the end of WWII, twenty Committees had been formed.  Mr. Percy Bidwell then Director of Studies at the Council, contacted members in the Salt Lake City and Seattle Committees for names of persons to assist in starting a Boise Committee.  Eventually Mr. Carl Bowden, of the Northrup King Seed Company in Boise, was contacted and he helped start the Boise Committee on Foreign Relations as the 21st affiliated group in 1945.  Bowden had lived in Russia for several years, and through his seed company was already a supplier of grain and vegetable seed in international commerce.  Bowden became the first Secretary of the Committee.

The title of Secretary was selected for the Committee’s Chief Operating Officer after the title of “Secretary of State”.  The initial organizing structure also included a board of directors. 

In 1945 Boise had a number of other international connections through Morrison-Knudsen Company and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, whose regional headquarters were then located in Boise. The University of Idaho Agricultural Extension Service also provided personnel and expertise to overseas projects.

Episcopal Bishop Frank A. Rhea served as the first Chairman of the Board for the new committee, while Secretary Carl Bowden led the Boise Committee until his death in 1952.  Col. Henry A. Schwarz became the next Secretary.  The board members at that time included Dr. Eugene B. Chaffee, then president of Boise Junior College.

In 1962 Milton Small succeeded Schwartz in the position of Secretary.   Small was a history teacher and later became Director for Higher Education for the Idaho State Board of Education.

In 1975 Les Dieter an engineering manager with Mountain Bell Telephone Company became Secretary.  At that time declining membership was becoming a problem, so Dieter opened the membership to women.  Boise was the first Committee to do so, and the move initially provoked debate within the Council and it’s committees.  However, by adding women to the membership, Boise’s membership grew rapidly and other Committees (and the Council itself) eventually followed suit. The BoiseCFR also developed a spousal membership system that was unique at the time.  Today the BoiseCFR is one of the larger committees with  more than 100 members.

In 1989 the role of Secretary or the newer title of Director, was passed to Richard Slaughter, an economist and private consultant with connections to the University of Idaho. 

In the 1990’s, Slaughter helped form the American Committees on Foreign Relations (ACFR) as a new umbrella organization for the local committees with it’s  headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

In 2008, the BoiseCFR became incorporated as a non-profit 501 (c)3 organization.   About that same time, Garry Wenske, executive director of the Frank Church Institute at Boise State University, was hired as executive director for the BoiseCFR.  In 2011 Wenske  became the President of BoiseCFR and Richard Slaughter moved into the Board Chair position.  Slaughter also presently serves as President of the ACFR.