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Remembering John Freemuth’s legacy at Boise State and beyond

John Freemuth was a professor of public policy at Boise State for over 30 years and was awarded multiple titles from Professor of the Year for Idaho and recognized as the University Distinguished Professor of Public Policy before he died on May 2, at the age of 69. Currently, there is no set date for a service or memorial. 

Andrew Giacomazzi, the interim dean of the school of public service, was a colleague and close friend of Freemuth’s for over 20 years.

“Going through all those changes as a colleague with john and the thing that strikes me about him was that he always took those changes in stride,” Giacomazzi said. “I mean, talk about a guy who I would describe as the most easygoing, laid back, unpretentious kind of person. I mean John Freemuth was a super-smart guy in his field and beyond.”

Freemuth had a passion and care for the environment and public lands, which included holding a position as the Cecil Andrus Endowed Chair of Environment and Public Lands.

Students and advisors would come to Freemuth for advice in regard to his knowledge of public lands and policy and to simply talk about anything as well, according to Giacomazzi. 

“We had many times where we just, you know tackle those things that would go on around us at Boise State or otherwise,” Giacomazzi said. “He’s the kind of person that you could just have really human kinds of conversations without feeling like you had to know everything about his field, to be able to keep up and have a conversation. He was someone that would just love to shoot the breeze.”

Another passion of Freemuth’s were his students. According to Giacomazzi, the two colleagues had similar teaching styles to focus on working with students in a friendly manner to let them know that he cares about their education.

“The way that he was able to connect with and engage with students, not only in the classroom but outside of the classroom. And even beyond after they graduated (he would) stay in touch and he became very well connected in federal agencies because so many of the students got jobs through that,” Giacomazzi said.

One of those students was Boise State alum, Scott Martin. Martin graduated in 1995 and received his masters from Boise state in 2000. He is currently the executive director of River Heritage Conservancy and holds a North American chair position for World Urban Parks.

Martin met Freemuth during his undergraduate degree and remembered how he would bring “legendary” guests, such as past Governor Andrus Cecil, into the class to speak with students. According to Martin, Freemuth conducted his classes in a way that made his students feel like he cared about their individual success.

“Many times I’ve dug myself in a corner in my career, or just hit a point of, I don’t know what the hell to do,” Martin said. “To be able to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, what do you think of this?’ I mean that was… I can’t tell you how many times he bailed me out.”

The parks and environmental lands Martin has worked on over the years continue to reflect Freemuth and the Boise area. The similarities to the work of Freemuth are a direct correlation to the influence he and Boise State has had in Martin’s life.

“I had such a unique experience at Boise State because as you can imagine, (working) back east I run into grads all the time from the big, ‘brand name’ schools with large environmental studies programs,” Martin said. “My education at Boise State prepared me to work in this hyper-competitive setting. I have no doubt John prepared me for this by thoughtfully bringing the real world and academics together in his classes.”

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