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Science teacher-turned bank founder and Caven-Williams namesake Jerry Caven dies

Eagle business owner and philanthropist Jerry Caven died last week.

He started his career as a science teacher at Hillside Junior High – but took a detour into business that spanned the next five decades.

According to his obituary, Caven saw an ad in the newspaper looking for someone to take over the original McDonald’s franchise location on Orchard St. That store – the first in Idaho – needed someone to turn it around. Caven thought he was applying for a part-time job to supplement his teacher salary.

Instead, he ended up owning the store.

From his obituary: “After some deliberation, Ray (Kroc) decided to take a chance on Jerry and gave him the failing Orchard Road restaurant. He then went to McDonalds University in Chicago for 2 weeks and quickly made his new restaurant profitable. He acquired 4 more McDonalds Restaurants over the next few years.”

The store – the only unit within 500 miles – went back to McDonald’s corporate after the previous owner failed. Caven took over — and moved in.

“I actually brought my cot into the basement and stayed there, twenty-four hours. I lived there for a while,” Caven told Kevin Miller.

Caven went on to a serial career in business. He purchased four more McDonald’s stores. He opened the first Royal Fork Buffett in Pocatello. Then opened 57 more. He founded the American Bank of Commerce. Then he founded the Idaho Banking Company.

Inteior of the Bleymaier Football Center at Boise State. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev file

He and wife Muriel joined with Larry and Marianne Williams to to donate $5 million to Boise State University in 2010. The donation helped build the Caven-Williams Indoor Practice Facility adjacent to Albertsons Stadium. The Cavens and Williams also made primary donations to the facility next door – which they asked the school to name in honor of long-time athletic director Gene Bleymaier. The Bleymaier Football Center opened in 2013.

Northwest Nazarene University conferred Caven an honorary doctorate in 2017. He originally graduated in 1959 from then-Northwest Nazarene College with degrees in biology and education.

Caven was 82.

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