Joseph Kise was born on a farm in Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota, in 1893. After finishing high school and getting a degree at St. Olaf College, he taught school in Minnesota and Iowa before joining the US Navy during World War I. He completed an MS degree after the war, and joined Moorhead State Teachers College in 1923. Kise taught history and government at MSTC and became active in local and state affairs, most especially the Minnesota Education Association and the local American Legion. He spoke frequently to community groups.
Unlike many in the 1920s, Kise saw merit in the League of Nations. In 1933, he helped bring the state’s annual Model League of Nations conference to Moorhead, and lobbied students to vote for a resolution in favor of the United States joining the real League as soon as possible (That very same week, Japan withdrew from the real League of Nations after being criticized for it’s aggression in China).
Kise, like many others, supported the idea of universal disarmament, but as the power of Japan, Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany grew, he feared the "huge sacrifice" of the Great War would become meaningless if the "dictatorships and war clouds hovering over the world's horizon" were left unchallenged. He helped coax American Legion members into calling for greater defense spending. He was very active in defense efforts during the Second World War.
After the war, Kise wrote a book on Minnesota government and a series of pamphlets on America's role in the postwar world, which he later published as the book International Relations of the United States. Some students thought he was too conservative during the 1960s, but everyone respected his grasp of the issues during those early years of the "Cold War." When Kise retired from Moorhead State in 1961, the college honored him by naming its new cafeteria (left) "Kise Commons." A few years later, new construction was added to the Commons and the Comstock Student Union was dedicated in 1968.