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Sarah Toevs to Retire After 24 Years at Boise State

Sarah Toevs headshot
Dr. Sarah Toevs.

School of Public and Population Health Professor Sarah Toevs will retire after 42 years as an educator. 

“Sarah has made an extraordinary impact during her time at Boise State University and SPPH,” said SPPH Director Mike Mann. “She is someone we can all count on to do what needs to be done and say what needs to be said to advance the mission and to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the students and communities we serve.”

Since joining the school in 2000, Toevs has conducted many state and regional public health reviews, directed Boise State’s interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Aging and mentored countless students. 

“Her passion for public health and research is contagious and inspirational,” Research Associate and former student Edwina French said. 

A Lifelong Interest in the Study of Aging

A lifelong Idahoan, Toevs grew up in the small town of Aberdeen, Idaho. She was surrounded by multigenerational family members — serving as the cornerstone of her early interest in gerontology and the study of aging.

“I really understand the value of intergenerational connections and how these relationships can impact a person’s development and resiliency,” Toevs said. 

Sarah and friends pose for photo
Sarah Toevs promoting the Idaho Caregiver Alliance at the Idaho Capitol.

Toevs’ work with the Center for the Study of Aging has largely focused on framing aging as a lifespan endeavor. Her work with the Center, in tandem with the Family Caregiver Alliance, aims to put systems of care and support in place for caregivers across the lifespan and those they care for.

“Our work around aging as a lifespan activity has been wonderfully challenging and we are filling a gap,” Toevs said. “There really isn’t another organization that functions with that lifespan perspective as it relates to family caregivers.”

Being a full-time caregiver for her mother, along with support from her husband Kevin, has provided a very personal perspective on aging and caregiving — one that truly connects her with others doing the same invaluable work.

“Sarah’s passion for this state is palpable,” Mann said. “She never lost sight of what our work can mean to the people of Idaho, especially our aging adults.”

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Working and conducting research in the public health arena for more than 40 years has brought many changes and opportunities. Living through the COVID-19 pandemic, as both a caregiver and public health professional, was both incredibly challenging and stimulating, Toevs said.  

“The pandemic really highlighted that we (public health professionals) now have the call to communicate in ways that meet communities where they are,” Toevs said. “And that is really exciting to me and for future generations of public health professionals.”

Group photo
Dr. Sarah Toevs and Dr. Ellen Schafer with Master of Public Health students in 2023.

The joy of working with so many future public health professionals in her time as an educator has provided a rich tapestry of memories — and her students echo that sentiment.

“Dr. Toevs has such an amazing talent for making connections in the community and using them to create learning opportunities for her students,” French said. “I am so fortunate to have worked with her as both a student and a colleague.”

“I will remember Sarah best as someone with a remarkable gift for partnership,” Mann said. “She is always connecting our team, our students and our community partners in ways that make a real difference in the lives of real people.”

Moving into this next phase of life, Toevs looks forward to mastering her bridge game alongside her mother, spending more time gardening and connecting with longtime friends.

But working with younger generations, Toevs said, is an aspect of her career that she hopes to continue in retirement.

“I hope that I can continue to support and augment the work of students and faculty in the public health world,” Toevs said.