Bill Issel is Professor of History Emeritus at San Francisco State University and a Visiting Professor of History at Mills College. He attended public and parochial schools in San Francisco and began his history work as a student in the honors program of the University of California, Berkeley, History Department before transferring to San Francisco State College, where he earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in American History. He joined the doctoral program at University of Pittsburgh where he focused on American labor history and political history, then moved to the University of Pennsylvania where he studied American literature, cultural anthropology and political sociology, earning A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in American Civilization. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
A specialist in American culture, society, and politics since the Civil War, Issel taught in the History, Humanities, and Urban Studies departments at San Francisco State from 1968 to 2006 and served as Coordinator of the American Studies Program and Associate Chair of the History Department.He received numerous awards for excellence in teaching and advising at San Francisco State, and he received grants in support of his research and public history projects from the National Endowment of Humanities, the California Council for the Humanities, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Before coming to SF State, while completing his graduate work, he taught at the University of Pittsburgh and the Camden campus of Rutgers-the State University of New Jersey, and then directed the history section of the Thirteen College Program at historically black colleges in the South. In 1978-1979, he was Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the University of Westminster (formerly the Polytechnic of Central London), and in 2008-2009, he served as the László Országh Chair in American Studies, a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturing Award, at the University of Pécs in Hungary. He received the 2014 Award of Merit from the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society for his contributions to teaching and writing about the history of San Francisco, and in the 2015-2016 academic year, he will serve as the John E. McGinty Chair in History at Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island, where he will teach courses on American Intellectual History and the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and continue his research into Catholic Action between the two world wars in archival collections in Boston and Providence.
Issel has taught and published on a variety of topics related to the social, cultural, and political history of the United States in the twentieth century. His 2010 book on the ordeal of Sylvester Andriano, a San Francisco Catholic Action leader falsely accused of Fascism in 1942, was published by Temple University Press. His reconsideration of San Francisco history, entitled Church and State in the City: Catholics and Politics in Twentieth Century San Francisco was published by Temple University Press in October 2012. He is currently writing a book on Catholic Action in American big cities from World War I to the Cold War and a political biography of John Francis Neylan, an influential California Catholic attorney whose career extended from the Progressive Era to the Cold War.
Issel has lectured extensively to academic and general audiences in the U.S. and in England and Europe; most recently a plenary lecture at the tenth annual conference of the Hungarian Association of American Studies in Budapest in May 2014. He has also done considerable public history consulting work, including serving as the guest curator for the San Francisco political history exhibit that marked the 1996 opening of the New Main Public Library in the Civic Center and the advisory boards of historical documentaries, including Neighborhoods of San Francisco: The Fillmore (2001) and American Jerusalem: Jews and the Making of San Francisco (2013).
Issel is married, the father of five adult children, and he has four grandchildren. He lives in Berkeley.