Namesake of BSU’s Keith Stein Blue Thunder Marching Band dies

Keith and Catherine Stein in 2001.
Keith and Catherine Stein in 2001.

Keith Stein, the Boise beer distributor whose generosity brought the marching band back to Boise State University, died Saturday night after a short illness. He was 86.

Stein founded Stein Distributing Co. in Boise in 1956 after serving in the U.S. Marines. Under Stein’s leadership as owner and CEO, the company grew to serve nearly 1,200 customers in 11 counties. The company expects to pass $50 million in sales, President John Grizzaffi said Tuesday.

Employees will remember Stein for his business acuity and calm demeanor, Grizzaffi said.

“Keith’s quiet presence was admired by those who had the honor of knowing him,” Grizzaffi said.

Stein’s most public act of generosity was in 1986, when he and his wife, Catherine, revived the dormant Boise State University marching band with a $250,000 donation. The full band was shelved in the late 1970s because of a lack of funding, with only a 31-piece band playing intermittently at football games.

Stein’s donation was part of $545,000 in fundraising support to restart the marching band, which has been called the Keith Stein Blue Thunder Marching Band since.

Band Director Joe Tornello said Stein’s importance to the program by funding scholarships for more than three decades “cannot be overestimated.”

“The band would not be what it is today without the support of Keith Stein,” Tornello said in a statement.

As longtime season ticket holders, the Steins attended nearly every home football game, Grizzaffi said. Keith Stein was at Albertsons Stadium to watch the Broncos’ Oct. 3 win over the University of Hawaii.

Read Stein’s obituary.