While many might have known David Gregory Mueller through his work as a criminal justice professor at Boise State University for over a decade, Ph.D. wasnt his only title.
Dave Mueller had at times less formal titles like coach, referee, volunteer or just flat-out fan of his teenage sons soccer, Optimist football, basketball, and wrestling teams. His colleagues and students would add titles like good friend, tireless worker, outstanding teacher and scholar, published author, great father and mentor. They also say he threw a pretty excellent Halloween Party and made some decent guacamole.
He was a people person, said professor Jeremy Ball, the current chairman of the Boise State Criminal Justice Department, who had known Mueller since 2004. I think sometimes the ivory tower gets too high for a lot of us (professors), but David wasnt one of those types.
David really went out of his way to put people at ease. He was a perfectionist ... (but) he was also a nice, easygoing guy, so good-natured.
When asked how someone could be both a demanding and a good-natured teacher, fellow BSU professor Andrew Giacomazzi shared this story about Mueller.
A young mother in one of his criminal justice classes had to take a test and could not find a babysitter for her 2-year-old. About halfway through the test, the toddler was acting up and the mother knew she was disrupting the class. She dropped her pen and turned in her test, half-done, expecting to fail. Mueller, not saying a word, handed her back the test, and started pushing the baby stroller and playing with the baby until the mother could finish her test.
The student said she couldnt believe how kind and compassionate and caring he was in that moment, Giacomazzi said. That story really sums it up. He was a tough teacher with a big heart.
Friends and colleagues say the 45-year-old Mueller packed in a lot of life professionally and personally before he died suddenly Aug. 20 because of a respiratory illness.
Mueller was a professor in the Criminal Justice Department at Boise State University from 2001 to 2012.
He was an expert on juvenile justice and school violence, and taught classes on juvenile justice, introduction to criminal justice, schools and delinquency (undergraduate and graduate) among other subjects. Mueller authored and co-authored numerous books and book chapters on juvenile justice and delinquency and law enforcement.
Fellow BSU criminal justice professor Lisa Bostaph who was driving across town on her way to pick up Mueller to take him to the hospital in August when he decided to call an ambulance said he was way too humble about his accomplishments.
He just refused to acknowledge how relevant he was in our field, of criminal justice, Bostaph said. He was really coming in to his own.
Colleagues say Mueller worked hard to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable at Boise State, making sure to poke fun at himself and do what he could to keep the mood light. That could mean allowing others to gently poke fun at him a virtue he used to strengthen the bonds between co-workers. Ball said it was his interaction with Mueller, trading good-natured zingers during a group job interview in 2004 that got Ball his job because he knew he would fit in.
Friends say Mueller embraced fatherhood with the same dedication and focus as he did his academic career. He was really involved in his teenage sons sports teams, would talk about his family in class and even used one of their dinner conversations as the basis for an academic paper.
He adored his boys they were the main focus of his life. His No. 1 worry was if he was doing right by his kids, Bostaph said.
Friends say Mueller was the kind of person who, once started on something, tried to perfect it like a 20-year battle with Giacomazzi over who could make the best guacamole. It started by accident, when, as grad students at Washington State University, both men brought guacamole to a pot luck dinner. Ever since, Mueller made sure to bring guacamole to events and ask everyone whose version was better.
He was kind of an obsessed guy about that ... he was always asking people to compare them, laughed Ball. I really couldnt tell much of a difference.
Its been a rough couple of years for the Boise State Criminal Justice Department, having lost professor Michael Blankenship, at 56, to a sudden heart attack in spring 2011. Staffers were still being affected by that when Mueller died.
For a lot of us, we are more than just co-workers. Our families spend holidays together, random time together. We look for reasons to get together outside the office ... this loss (of David Mueller) is devastating, Bostaph said.
Dave, for Lisa and I, and everyone else, was like a brother, added Giacomazzi.
Mueller was born in Smithtown, N.Y., in 1967. He attended San Jose State University as an undergrad and earned a masters degree in criminal justice in 1994 and a Ph.D. in political science in 2001 at Washington State University.
Mueller first began teaching criminal justice classes in 1997 at California State University, Los Angeles, and moved to the University of Idaho in 1998.
Mueller joined BSU in August 2001 as an assistant professor of criminal justice. He was promoted to associate professor in 2005 and served as the departments grad student coordinator from 2006 to 2009.
Mueller is survived by his two teenage sons, Ryan Gardiner, 15, and Kyle Mueller, 13; the mother of his sons, Dr. Mary Gardiner; sister Brigitte Curry and her husband, Ron Curry; niece Chandra and Don Walters and their son, Wade Walters. He was preceeded in death by his father, Fritz Mueller and mother, Elsa Scheuermann.