News Release



Bethine Church to Receive Honorary Doctorate from Boise State

Click to enlarge

Boise State University will award an honorary doctorate to Bethine Church, widow of former U.S. Sen. Frank Church, during spring commencement ceremonies. Commencement is at 10 a.m. May 16 in Taco Bell Arena.

“Having attended Boise Junior College many years ago, I deeply appreciate receiving this honorary degree,” said Church. “I feel strongly connected to Boise State, which contributes so much to making Boise such a vital and interesting place to live.”

“Bethine Church and her extraordinary family are an integral part of the fabric of Idaho and Boise State University,” said Boise State President Bob Kustra. “Her example of selfless civic service and her uncompromising devotion to and passion for the political process, the environment and the betterment of Idaho’s citizens serves as an inspiration to us all. We are pleased and excited to recognize the many contributions of this true Idaho icon with an honorary doctorate.”

Church is known as the matriarch of the Idaho Democratic Party, where she has been an active force her entire adult life. She is president and founder of the Sawtooth Society, champion of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and founder and chair of the Frank Church Institute at Boise State. The institute, established in 1982, hosts annual public policy conferences and provides endowments for Frank Church scholarships and for the Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs.

Church was born into an Idaho family steeped in political tradition. Her father, Chase Clark, and uncle, Barzilla Clark, both served as Idaho governors, while her cousin, D. Worth Clark, was both a U.S. representative and senator.

She was often called the “third Senator” from Idaho because of her active participation in public life during her husband’s tenure in the Senate. Frank Church was elected in 1956 and served for 24 years, during which time he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. With her husband, Bethine Church traveled the world and campaigned with him for president in 1976. She became a widow in 1984 when Frank died of cancer at the age of 59.

From 1942-43, Church attended Boise Junior College and in 1945 she graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in sociology.

Church is the seventh person to receive an honorary doctorate from Boise State. Past recipients include former astronaut/educator Barbara Morgan (2008), Micron Technology CEO Steve Appleton (2007), CH2M Hill President Ralph R. Peterson (2006), Chinese humanitarian Deng Pufang (2005), former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus (2004) and Hollywood director Michael Hoffman (2004).


Media Contact: Kathleen Tuck, University Communications, (208) 426-3275,

Boise State University is “The New U Rising” with record student enrollment, new academic buildings, additional degree programs and a growing research agenda. Learn more at


The Office of Communications and Marketing - Boise State University
1910 University Drive - Boise Idaho 83725-1030
Located in Capitol Village, 2225 W. University Drive

Last reviewed on Tuesday, April 14, 2009