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This is the day Boise State's top Bronco rides away

Outgoing Boise State President Bob Kustra visits his old office and interim president Martin Schimpf on Friday. Kustra's tenure started in 2003 when Boise State was a commuter school of roughly 18,500 students. Under his leadership, the school has grown to more than 24,000 students.
Outgoing Boise State President Bob Kustra visits his old office and interim president Martin Schimpf on Friday. Kustra's tenure started in 2003 when Boise State was a commuter school of roughly 18,500 students. Under his leadership, the school has grown to more than 24,000 students.

As fate would have it, the first song Boise State president Bob Kustra heard when he turned on his car Friday morning told a story 15 years in the making.

Kustra, 75, announced his retirement last November, effective June 30, 2018. The song that popped on when he drove to work on his last day was George Strait's "The Cowboy Rides Away."

"And my heart is sinking like the setting sun, setting on the things I wish I'd done. It's time to say goodbye to yesterday. This is where the cowboy rides away."

"Now, I’m not a cowboy. Don’t mistake me for any kind of a cowboy," Kustra said. "But it was quite a message, like ‘Yeah, I’m saying goodbye to yesterday, alright.'"

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"I'm a one-day-at-a-time kind of guy," said Bob Kustra, holding a few parting gifts from students, faculty and friends on his last day as Boise State's president. "I always look at what's on the agenda tomorrow, what does my calendar look like tomorrow. And I have never really thought about this day until this morning." Darin Oswald doswld@idahostatesman.com

After 15 years, he was dressed like he would be for any other day of work: a powder blue dress shirt, khakis and a blue blazer complete with a Boise State "B" pin on the left collar.

Kustra, the former Illinois lieutenant governor, oversaw the development of academic programs such as the School of Public Service and the College of Innovation and Design. He led BSU's first major capital campaign, its "building boom" and oversaw roughly $82.5 million in improvements to the football facility.

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Steve Silva and business partner David McKinzie, left, fit Bob Kustra with a Boise State bow tie. The two entrepreneurs, who met at Boise State's business college, talked with the outgoing president about his legacy. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

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Bob Kustra talks with Tom Michael, general manager of Boise State Public Radio. Kustra will continue his "Reader's Corner" show and still be affiliated with the university's School of Public Service. He said staying involved makes leaving a lot easier. "These are just people with whom I work and I love and I respect their work. I don't want to sever all my ties and take off out of here like this last 15 years didn't exist." Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

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One of the last official meetings Boise State President Bob Kustra attended was with the a group of administrators overseeing the completion of the Center for Fine Arts. The newest building in BSU's landscape is intended to be a gateway to the campus and a bridge from the university to the larger arts world. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

As he embarked on his final day, he crossed off items on his agenda one last time. On the schedule were trips to Boise State Public Radio, where he will continue to host his weekly "Reader's Corner" show; a meeting with administration about the completion of the Center for Fine Arts; and meeting to get fitted for a bow-tie by students who started their own business.

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Bob Kustra was given a terra cotta turtle by a faculty member soon after he became president at Boise State. The attached phrase — "Behold the turtle! He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out" — has been a guide for his leadership, he said. "There have been a number of times during my tenure, (when I had to decide) whether you're going to ask for forgiveness or permission," Kustra said. "It's an old line, but it's very true. ... There are moments when you realize you can't move any organization forward if you don't move quickly." Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

Back in his old office, Kustra pointed out a statue of a turtle sitting on a coffee table. Though the next president of Boise State is still undetermined, he's leaving the turtle for him or her. It was given to him by a former biology instructor in 2004. A tag on it reads, "Behold the turtle! He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.”

It's advice Kustra hopes the next president of Boise State will follow.

“I’ve never been shy about sharing my vision and dreams for this place, long before I would know whether or not everybody was going to sign off," Kustra said. "And I think that’s what that turtle is trying to tell me.”

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Bob Kustra leaves the administration building at Boise State on his way to lunch with his staff Friday. Kustra plans to travel with his family for a few months. "I decided I didn't want to wake up wondering why I'm not going to the office," Kustra said. "So, we're boarding a plane."

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Kelly Myers, who heads Boise State's Beyond the Major program, gives Bob Kustra a farewell hug as he leaves the office.

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Bob Kustra walks to his office along Boise State's campus Friday. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

Boise State University President Bob Kustra retired on Friday, June 29. The Idaho Statesman sat down with him on Wednesday, June 27 to talk about his time as BSU's President.

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