Photo Friday: Table Tennis in the “Forbidden Kingdom”

Ernest L. Boyer playing table tennis in China in 1974. - BCA

Ernest L. Boyer playing table tennis in China in 1975. – BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post shows Ernie Boyer in a more relaxed setting: playing a rousing game of table tennis in China!

This photo was taken in 1975, when Ernie and his wife Kay took an unexpected trip to China. From out of the blue, Ernie’s office received a call from the Washington D. C. Chinese Liaison Office, which informed him that he and his wife were invited to visit China. Kay describes their experience in “The Forbidden Kingdom,” a subsection of chapter 14 of her book Many Mansions (which we have previously introduced on the blog). In a very engaging story, Kay explains that, although she and Ernie did not know the reason for their visit, they took the time to take in the scenery. Yet, more importantly, they sought to understand Chinese culture, to meet the people who made up that culture, and to experience the institutions that guided those people, particularly in education. Ernie was then able to consider these values in his later writings.

In the following passage, Kay explains what Ernie noted about the differences between how the Chinese viewed education and leadership compared to the State University of New York (SUNY):

SUNY’s motto expressed a commitment to serve each individual, while the Chinese prepared to serve the whole society. Ernie wondered how SUNY could continue to celebrate the individual and also face up to the challenge of working together to reach out and serve others.

Ernie found many other ways to consider what we observed. He wrote about administrators moving from their own pivot points of power from time to time to meet the people and participate in the work of the enterprise they directed. He then decided to experience that concept for himself…he arranged for an extended stay on campus and spent a night sleeping in a men’s dormitory. The next day he spent time alongside the maintenance workers, campus security, and the lower administrative ranks.

Today’s photo thus represents Boyer as a person who enjoyed engaging with others outside of formal educational settings – like across a ping pong table – as well as a person who learned from other cultures to improve education and our world-views.

To learn more about Ernie and Kay’s trip to China, consider purchasing a copy of Many Mansions or click here to see more photos of their trip.