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Pat Bieter


Basque Collection


MSS 184

University Archives Faculty File

Table of Contents

Biographical Sketch

John Patrick (Pat) Bieter was born on March 13, 1930, in Devil's Lake, North Dakota, and spent his childhood in Minnesota, where he was a standout athlete. He majored in history and graduated from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul in 1952. While serving in the United States Air Force at Mountain Home, Idaho, Bieter met Eloise Garmendia, daughter of Basque immigrants to Idaho. They were married on June 4, 1955. He earned his master's degree in history from the University of California at Berkeley in 1956 and returned to Idaho that same year, where he began teaching and coaching at Boise Junior High School. He continued to work for public schools in Boise for 12 years, first as a teacher and coach and later as an assistant principal at Borah High School. Inspired by his wife's ethnic background and his own connections to Boise's large Basque community, Bieter began the study of Basque language, history and culture. He published several articles in academic journals on the Basques in Idaho.

In 1969, Pat Bieter earned a doctorate in education from the University of Idaho and was hired as an assistant professor of education at Boise State College. In the summer of 1972, he had the opportunity to study for eight weeks in the Basque Country and made a number of contacts with local people. On his return, he submitted a proposal to Boise State president John Barnes to create a study abroad program in the Basque Country. The original proposal included academic credit in Basque language, history, arts, and humanities for two semesters of study.

Bieter presented the proposal to the Idaho State Board of Education in January 1973 as a program supported largely by student fees. The program would be hosted in Oñate, a city of approximately 15,000, located in the mountains in northern Spain. Bieter found a facility to lease in Oñate at the College of San Lorenzo, an educational complex that after renovation included dormitory and classroom facilities, offices, dining areas, theater, and laundry.

Boise State University's Year in Spain began in 1974. Bieter, along with his wife Eloise and five children, lived in Oñate during the 1974-1975 academic year. They were accompanied by seventy-five students and seven faculty members to become the first group of Americans to participate in an extended study program on Basque soil (Bieter, 126). The objective of the program was to provide the opportunity for Americans to live in a different culture, learn a distinctive language, and develop a comparative base from which to analyze one's own culture and values. The program was oriented towards the Basque cultural perspective but not Basque political positions. This was an important distinction at the time, as that particular year proved violent (three bombings occurred near the Oñate campus right before the students arrived) and it was the last year of power under Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, whose regime sought to suppress the Basque culture and language for nearly four decades.

Boise State University offered the program in Oñate from 1974 to 1979.  Over 200 students traveled to Spain to study Basque and Spanish languages, history, culture, literature and art.  The program was discontinued in the summer of 1980 when the San Lorenzo campus dormitory and educational facilities that had been leased by Boise State were sold.  This prompted Pat Bieter and Jon Bilbao, the director of the Basque Center at the University of Nevada at Reno, to work towards together operating a consortium to offer study abroad programs in San Sebastian (Bieter, 127). The consortium began offering the only Basque study abroad program from the United States in August 1983.

Pat Bieter taught at Boise State University for 26 years until his retirement in 1995.  In addition to teaching classes, Bieter sponsored workshops on Basque culture and history at Boise State University and was a visiting speaker at the University of Nevada-Reno in the 1980s.  Bieter was an accomplished bass player and frequently played with multiple jazz bands, including the Pat Bieter Blues Band, at venues in Boise.  In 1996, he was elected to the Idaho House of Representatives from Boise’s 19th district, and was reelected two years later.  In 1999, Pat and Eloise Bieter were killed in an automobile accident.  Their son David succeeded him as state representative and later became mayor of Boise in 2003.


  1. Biographical material within the collection.
  2. Barrett, Glen. Boise State University: Searching for Excellence, 1932-1984. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University, 1984.
  3. Bieter, John, and Mark Bieter. An Enduring Legacy: The Story of Basques in Idaho. The Basque Series. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2000.
  4. Boise State University Archives, record group 5.4. President’s Office (John Keiser). Box 36, folder 29 (Basque Studies, 1974-1988).

Scope and Content Note

Dr. Pat Bieter’s papers are divided into three parts: Basque-related material, political papers, and personal papers.  This finding aid describes only the Basque papers within Bieter's manuscript collection. The records in this collection provide history and information on Boise State University’s “Year in Spain” (later known as Campus in Spain) program, which lasted from 1974-1979.  In 1980, the program turned into a consortium agreement with the University of Nevada at Reno.  Dr. Bieter was the original program director during the first trip in 1974, when he brought his wife and five children with to experience an academic year in Oñate.


The collection includes a small amount of personal Basque material, including his personal research notes.  The collection also includes Bieter’s published writings and unpublished manuscripts on the Basques from his time as a graduate student in 1956 right up until his death.  There are some materials Bieter brought back from the Basque Country, including children’s language workbooks, pamphlets related to student travel and study abroad, and folders of Basque clippings in multiple languages (Basque, Spanish, French, and English).  The bulk of the collection focuses on his involvement with the Basque program at Boise State University, including correspondence, student rosters, budgets, and materials related to the development of the program over twenty years.

Pat Bieter Basque Collection

Series List

SERIES I: Personal (Basque) Materials

The personal (Basque) materials from Pat Bieter include a few letters from his daughter Mary when she lived in the Basque Country, papers related to Bieter’s involvement in 1976 with providing congressional testimony for the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Spain, one folder on research pertaining to the Basque Country, a few drawings of Bieter, poetry written by Bieter based on his family, and two folders of personal notebooks related to Basque language and history.

Box 1


SERIES II: Writings

Pat Bieter published journal articles, newspaper articles, and book reviews related to Basques in the United States, Basques in Idaho, and Basque Country relations with Spain and other countries.  This series includes both published and unpublished works.  Also included are three revisions of a book chapter on Pete Cenarrusa, one of Idaho’s most well-known Basques and Secretary of State from 1967-2002, and a student paper on John Archabal that Bieter wrote while working on his master’s degree in history.

Box 2


SERIES III: Boise State Basque Program

Boise State University records kept by Dr. Pat Bieter related to the implementation of the “Year in Spain” program (also known as “Campus in Spain” and precursor to the Basque Studies program).  Correspondence chronologically arranged.


The closed correspondence in Box 4 involves the details of pensions of individual members.


Box 3: Correspondence

Box 4: Program Information

Box 5: Program Information (CLOSED FILES)

SERIES IV: General Basque Materials

This series consists mainly of newspaper clippings collected by Pat Bieter on Basque topics, some from when he lived abroad.  Topics include Basque relations with Spain and France; Basques in certain cities in the United States; and the 1983 elections in Oñate.  The series also includes a folder of pamphlets on the Basque Country in general and pamphlets related to students traveling abroad, not particular to Boise State University.

Box 6

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