The Boise Committee on Foreign Relations (BoiseCFR) began in 1945 when interested local men responded to contact from the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The Council had been launched in 1921 in the aftermath of World War I to help expand understanding of foreign affairs across the United States.
In 1938, as war again loomed in Europe, the value of expanding understanding of foreign affairs into the U.S. heartland became a priority. Local groups for informed discussion looked like a good method to the Council.
By the end of World War II, twenty committees had been formed. Mr. Percy Bidwell, then Director of Studies at the Council, contacted members in the Salt Lake City and Seattle committees for names of persons to assist in starting a Boise Committee. Eventually Mr. Carl Bowden, of the Northrup King Seed Company in Boise, was contacted and he helped start the Boise Committee on Foreign Relations as the twenty-first affiliated group in 1945. Bowden had lived in Russia for several years, and through his seed company, was already a supplier of grain and vegetable seed in international commerce. Bowden became the first Secretary of the Committee.
The title of Secretary was selected for the Committee’s Chief Operating Officer after the title of “Secretary of State.” The initial organizing structure also included a Board of Directors.
In 1945, Boise had a number of other international connections through Morrison-Knudsen Company and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, whose regional headquarters were then located in Boise. The University of Idaho Agricultural Extension Service also provided personnel and expertise to overseas projects.
Episcopal Bishop Frank A. Rhea served as the first Chairman of the Board for the new committee, while Secretary Carl Bowden led the Boise Committee until his death in 1952. Col. Henry A. Schwarz became the next Secretary. Board Directors at that time included Dr. Eugene B. Chaffee, then President of Boise Junior College.
In 1962, Milton Small succeeded Schwartz in the position of Secretary. Small was a history teacher and later became Director for Higher Education for the Idaho State Board of Education.
In 1975, Les Dieter, an engineering manager with Mountain Bell Telephone Company, became Secretary. At that time, declining membership was becoming a challenge, so Dieter opened membership to women. Boise was the first committee to do so, and the move initially provoked debate within the Council and its committees. However, by adding women to the membership, Boise’s membership grew rapidly and other committees (and the Council itself) eventually followed suit. The BoiseCFR also developed a spousal membership system that was unique at the time. Today, the BoiseCFR is one of the larger committees.
In 1989, the role of Secretary or the newer title of Director, was passed to Richard Slaughter, an economist and private consultant with connections to the University of Idaho.
In the 1990s, Slaughter helped form the American Committees on Foreign Relations (ACFR) as a new umbrella organization for the local committees with its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In 2008, the BoiseCFR became incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. About that same time, Garry Wenske, Executive Director of the Frank Church Institute at Boise State University, was hired as Executive Director for the BoiseCFR. In 2011, Wenske became President of BoiseCFR and Richard Slaughter moved into the Board Chair position. Slaughter also served as President of the ACFR.
In 2023, Garry Wenske retired as President of BoiseCFR, and continues to serve on the Board. Dr. Katherine Himes was selected as President of BoiseCFR. Dr. Himes is the Director of the McClure Center at the University of Idaho, and is the first woman to serve as BoiseCFR President.
In 2024, the BoiseCFR became more independent from the ACFR umbrella organization, and began working more with other independent foreign relations committees around the country. At about the same time, the BoiseCFR implemented a new computerized online membership and event registration system, to better manage membership dues and event costs.