Bill Issel is Professor of History Emeritus at San Francisco State University. 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. After retiring from State, he served as visiting professor of history at Mills College from 2006 to 2015.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 Curriculum 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. In 2015-2016, he served as the John E. McGinty Distinguished Chair in History at Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island.
He 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 book on the ordeal of Sylvester Andriano, (2010) a San Francisco Catholic Action leader falsely accused of Fascism in 1942 and his reconsideration of San Francisco history, Church and State in the City: Catholics and Politics in Twentieth Century San Francisco (2013) were both published by Temple University Press. 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; the 2016 First Prize from the Catholic Press Association of the US and Canada for his article on the San Francisco State College Strike of 1968/1969; the 2017 Distinguished Achievement Award for Scholarship from the American Catholic Historical Association for making "a significant impact on the understanding of Catholic history" by "a sustained series of contributions which have fundamentally influenced the research of others besides being significant in their own right over a long career."
Issel has lectured extensively to academic and general audiences in the U.S. and in England and Europe, including a plenary lecture at the tenth annual conference of the Hungarian Association of American Studies in Budapest in May 2014; a paper on President Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Movement at the biennial conference of the European Association for American Studies in Constanta, Romania, in April 2016; a lecture at the November 2016 conference on the U.S. Republican Party from World War II to the Present at Université Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand II in France. 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.