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Idaho State University community mourns loss of influential leader

January 14, 2020

Galen Louis portrait

Galen Kenneth Louis: October 23, 1949 - December 21, 2019

POCATELLO – A transformative leader and thoughtful friend among Idaho State University’s Department of Community and Public Health, and in the university community, has died. Galen Louis, who as the program director for the Master in Public Health, was instrumental in securing reaccreditation from the Center for Education on Public Health for the Master of Public Health (MPH) program in 2009. Today, the ISU MPH program remains the only one in Idaho that is fully accredited by CEPH.

Students who interacted with Louis during their time at ISU recall him as a professor and advisor who truly valued their work and endeavors. His tenure at ISU had an incredible impact, transcending beyond the classroom and into the daily lives of his students.

“My favorite memory is Galen playing his guitar and singing Christmas songs during our final iostatistics class,” said Vivian Lockary, who graduated in 2009. “He made learning fun. Dr. Louis frequently used Jake (his old dog) and his canine buddies as one population, and his ISU MPH grad students as the second group, in teaching us statistical analysis. Galen, you may be gone, but never forgotten.”

Another student, Aaron Haws said, “This man had an incredible impact on my life. Not just during my graduate studies at Idaho State, but beyond. He loved each and every one of his students, and we all felt it. Galen was truly a gem of a man, leaving behind an incredible legacy.”

Haws recalls a time when he desperately thought about giving up on his thesis project but was convinced to pursue because of the guidance and aid he received from Louis.

“In graduate school, I struggled,” Haws said. “I wanted to give up. My thesis research was a total nightmare, and I just couldn’t find the right advisor to meet my needs. I thought I would never finish and graduate. Galen got me further in six months than I had in the previous two years working on my own, or with other advisors.”

Those in administrative and leadership roles were also influenced and impressed by the work of Louis.

“Galen played a central role in the development and implementation of our Master in Public Health degree,” said  Linda Hatzenbuehler, former vice president for health sciences at ISU. “Without his valuable and thoughtful work, ISU's MPH program would not have been accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health. Programmatic accreditation is a critical element for health-related educational programs,”

Another leader, Bessie Katsilometes, former associate vice president of university programs for ISU-Meridian Health Science Center expressed her feelings.

“The loss of Dr. Galen Louis deeply affects his colleagues and his students, as he was selflessly committed to his profession of public health through teaching, research, and service,” Katsilometes said. “For the University, Galen worked tirelessly and effectively in leading and preparing for the Master of Public Health reaccreditation, which was successful, in part due to his passion for the discipline, during a time of constrained resources in the department.”

For ISU-Meridian, he was a vital member of Dean's Faculty Advisory Council, providing logic and strategy models for planning and expansion, she said.  “Galen was active as a state leader, promoting the Idaho Public Health Association and consulting with both government and nonprofit entities,” Katsilometes said. “In every sense, Galen was a gentleman and a scholar; he was multifaceted in his myriad talents, and his excellence was evident in academic and creative endeavors.”

Just prior to his retirement, Louis created an endowment to support the students and faculty in the ISU Master of Public Health program. Ryan Gerulf, development director for the Kasiska Division of Health Sciences says he is honored to have had the opportunity to work with Louis for a short time before his passing.

“The endowment will provide over $1,000 annually for this program that Galen so loved,” Gerulf said. “Galen attended a ceremony in October of 2019 to congratulate the most recent recipient, and was still active with the endowment. He also generously offered a matching pledge to gather more support for the Master of Public Health program during Raise the Roar this year.”

Louis asked that contributions go to the Galen Louis Endowment Fund at Idaho State University, c/o Ryan Gerulf, 921 S 8th Street, Mailstop 8050, Pocatello, Idaho 83209. Below is the full obituary, provided from Bowman Funeral Directors in Garden City.


Galen Kenneth Louis: October 23, 1949 - December 21, 2019


“Galen Louis was a true Renaissance man. College professor, businessman, musician, singer, songwriter, storyteller, playwright, aerobic instructor, golfer, actor, motorcyclist and marathoner. He did them all and did them well.

Well, maybe not golf.

Galen was born on October 23, 1949, in San Francisco, the second of four boys. His parents were immigrants from China, and he spent his early years in the Chinatown and Western Addition neighborhoods before the family moved to Corte Madera, Marin County, in 1965.

Galen started working at 15 as a cutter at Sue Mills, which made school uniforms and nun’s habits. At 16, he bought his first guitar at Montgomery Ward, leading to his longest love, music. He played, wrote songs, and performed his whole life.

In 1967, he entered San Francisco State College and became politically active, working for then Senator Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign during the 1968 race. During his college summers, he rode his motorcycle and hitchhiked around the West and was a counselor at a youth camp at Mt. Baker, Washington.

By 1972, he had dreams of exploring Europe by rail but set those aside when a new Sears store opened in the Bay Area. Store officials said they were looking for young industrious employees and Galen thought it would be a “kick” to take on the challenge. That began an 11-year career that started in the men’s department and ended only after he became regional merchandiser for 28 stores in California.

While working for Sears, Galen met his first wife, Janis, and later his second wife, Cindy.

It was also during that time that he took up running and eventually competed in events like Bay to Breakers and the San Francisco Marathon.

Eventually, Galen left Sears to work for smaller, start-up companies where he felt there was more energy. Part of his work involved being a production and design liaison with manufacturers in Europe, China, and Mexico.

By 1989, he’d had enough of corporate life so he and Cindy moved to Pocatello, Idaho, so he could earn a master’s degree at Idaho State University. While going to school, he delivered Pepsi, taught aerobics, managed a fitness facility and worked at a psychiatric hospital.

He graduated with a master’s in Health Science and in 1992, accepted a job in Boise with Idaho Health and Welfare. He also met Peggy, who would become his third and final wife. During his time at Health and Welfare, he was a program manager for teen pregnancy, suicide prevention, injury and domestic violence, tobacco control, and specialized in working with disparate populations such as Hispanic, Native American, the LGBTQ community, and other under-served populations.

In 1995, he accepted a full scholarship at the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana to pursue a Ph.D. in Community Health with an emphasis in the Indian Health Services. He started yet another new career, developing his own consulting business. He became a contractor with Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and traveled the country as a health care consultant for Indian tribes, state health departments and non-profit organizations.

Being self-employed allowed Galen flexibility and he took time to attend a language immersion school in Mexico to learn a third language to go along with English and Cantonese.

Eventually, he felt it was time to try something else and he took a job overseeing accreditation for ISU’s Masters of Public Health program, where he became director. His love was teaching but he also did research and administration.

After a serious illness in 2012, he retired from ISU but not from life. He joined Boise’s community theatre scene. He acted in seven plays and wrote one called “Dying Memories” which was produced in June 2019 to sell out audiences. He volunteered helping seniors do their income taxes and helped refugees study for their citizenship test. All along, he continued his musical career by playing gigs all around Boise.

Galen and Peggy also travelled extensively. One trip included walking part of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, even though Galen had to use crutches after cracking a bone spur 10 days before the trip.

Galen loved all animals and in particular dogs. He also enjoyed fly-fishing and hiking.

Preceding Galen in death were his parents, Helen and Henry Louis. Galen leaves behind Peggy of Boise; his stepchildren, Kelly Reed (Heather) of Coeur d’Alene, and RoseMary Reed of Seattle, the mother of his two grandchildren, Zeah and Isa; three brothers, Selwyn (Jackie) of Greenbrae, CA, Kerwin of Waikoloa Village, HI, and Bert of San Rafael, CA; his Aunt Betty Louis of San Francisco, CA, his cousins Audrey (Eric) Enstrom of Castro Valley, CA, Michael Louis of San Francisco, CA and Shirlene Louis of San Francisco, CA.

In his later years, Galen endured kidney disease, heart disease, vascular disease and lung disease, but kept on despite them for many years. His family thanks all of the excellent caregivers at the Fresenius dialysis center in Boise and Horizon Home Health and Hospice.

Galen asked that contributions go to the Galen Louis Endowment Fund at Idaho State University, c/o Ryan Gerulf, 921 S 8th Street, Mailstop 8050, Pocatello, Idaho 83209.

To celebrate Galen’s life, please choose one of his attributes you most admire and make it your own so Galen will go on with you and those you touch.”




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