Photo Friday: The Ernie Boyer Method of Mingling

Ernest L. Boyer mingling with employees of the central administration of SUNY in Albany, New York. -BCA

Ernest L. Boyer mingling with employees of the central administration of SUNY in Albany, New York. -BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post features Ernie Boyer mingling with employees of the State University of New York (SUNY) Administration. On the surface, it may seem that this event is of little importance. However, what is occurring in today’s featured picture is something that is important to any profession: networking. By talking with various people at social events Boyer was able to accomplish many tasks simultaneously. He was able to build connections with people and stay informed about current issues in education. He also was able to establish an avenue to both receive and give help to his colleagues. Perhaps more importantly, through these types of events Boyer could achieve another goal, a goal that he had in common with many of the people attending social events like cocktail parties.

In her book Many Mansions, Boyer’s wife Kay describes this goal and the way it was accomplished by Boyer as almost an art form. She says:

These parties were an interesting study for me, and I was intrigued by watching people as they arrived and following their movements after they took a quick glance around the crowed room. They would politely greet people while moving swiftly to the one or two individuals they had sought out upon entering the room; often they had come to the party specifically to lobby for a particular cause. Under the pressure of busy daytime schedules, these events were often the only way to take care of some pressing issues

While Boyer shared this goal of taking care of certain issues with other professionals, he had his own unique methods, particularly in the fact that he was not always alone on these social ventures. Kay “loved to go and went whenever [her] duties allowed.” She was an important part in Boyer’s method of mingling. She could “help with the spying” or “alert Ernie if one of the people he was hoping to speak to was making moves toward the exit.”

In addition, Boyer was different than most professionals in that there were things that he valued more than accomplishing these goals of establishing connections or addressing a certain issues. For example, one of the reasons why Kay loved to go with Ernie to cocktail parties and vice versa was because it was a chance for them to “enjoy some time together.” They even referred to it as their own version of “date night.” Moreover, for Boyer the idea of mingling with people was about understanding others and who they were. He wanted to discover ways that he could help them, and he wanted to establish personal friendships. This is why the Boyers frequently hosted dinner parties for students, faculty, and administrators, and always made it a point to shake everyone’s hand and remember their names.

Therefore, today’s post represents how both Ernie and Kay Boyer never separated their hospitality, kindness, and friendship with their work. Many professionals today would do well to adapt the Ernie Boyer method of mingling.


Photo Friday: Ernie Boyer’s Schedule

Ernest L. Boyer and other unidentified people at a board meeting in the Office of Education. - BCA

Ernest L. Boyer and other unidentified people at a board meeting in the Office of Education. – BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post shows Ernie Boyer with several unidentified men and women at a board meeting for the Office of Education when he was the U.S. Commissioner of Education. While this photo may not seem too significant, it nonetheless accurately portrays Boyer’s typical day-to-day routine. Boyer often spent a great amount of time in and traveling to various meetings and appointments, which ranged from speaking with individuals to addressing organizations of which he was a member.

The Boyer Center Archives houses many documents relating to these meetings, including minutes, agendas, financial statement, memos, and correspondence. Typically, these documents focus on topics like implementing educational curriculum, conducting studies, or preparing publications. Stimulating stuff!

Yet in all seriousness, these documents come alive when Kay Boyer describes them in her book Many Mansions. Having read through hundreds of pages of Ernie’s daily appointment books, she describes five days in February 1978 to illustrate Ernie’s schedule. To condense these pages, I will simply chart the events of each day:

Kay concludes this illustration by stating:


Those five days provide a glimpse into the scope and intensity of Ernie’s efforts, but it does not reveal all of his work. Day-by-day, Ernie was charged with leading 146 separate programs, from federally insured student loans to programs addressing our nations’ tragic legacy of segregation and discrimination in education.

Ernie’s commitment to such a hectic schedule shows the degree to which he was both committed to education and his colleagues. However, by including personal things in this schedule, Kay demonstrates that making time for faith and family are what kept Ernie Boyer going.
Today’s post thus attempts to shed light on the logistical operations of Boyer’s work as the U.S. Commissioner of Education and how he balanced his time between all of his appointments, with organization, individuals, and family.


Photo Friday: Boyer’s Degrees

Ernest L. Boyer as a 1946 Messiah Academy (high school) graduate.

Ernest L. Boyer as a 1946 Messiah Academy (high school) graduate.

Today’s Photo Friday post features Ernie Boyer’s Messiah Academy graduation photo. While this photo may not be the most engaging we have had on Service Fulfilled, the story behind it is greatly important, especially in light of recent events in the Boyer Archives.

Being that Boyer was an alumnus of Messiah College (known during his student days as Messiah Bible College), a current Messiah student recently posed a question to the archives staff: “What did Boyer major in when he was at Messiah?” While the question is so basic, its answer is often overlooked when discussing the numerous accomplishments Boyer made in his later years.

To answer this question it must first be understood that when Boyer came to Messiah in 1945, he came to enroll in the Messiah Academy, a high school program sponsored by the college in those days. One year later he enrolled in what was then Messiah Bible College. Although the college offered various tracks of study, it was not accredited to grant bachelor’s degrees. Thus Boyer applied the credits he had earned from the bible college to a bachelor’s degree program at Greenville College, a Free Methodist school in Illinois. Although there is conflicting evidence as to his major at Greenville, it is clear that he studied history and psychology.

Yet, because Boyer later played a key role in American education, including as the chancellor of the SUNY university system and as the U.S. Commissioner of Education, this then begs another question: Why did Boyer shift his focus from history and psychology to education and administration?

To answer this question we must continue our re-tracing of Boyer’s academic pursuits. After graduating from Greenville College in 1950, Boyer and his wife, Kay, moved to Florida, where Ernie became a pastor of a small Brethren in Christ Church. However, one year later, wanting to continue his studies, Ernie accepted a faculty position at Upland College in Southern California. (This school, like Messiah in those days, was owned and operated by the Brethren in Christ Church.) It was in Southern California that he began working on his master’s and doctorate degrees in speech at the University of Southern California.

Yet, there were a few times when it seemed that Boyer might not finish his degree. One such instance occurred in 1954, when he was forced to withdraw his attendance from the university for a term due to an “emergency appendix and abdominal exploratory operation.” Still, not only did Boyer persevere through these difficult times, he thrived. It seems that his teaching and administrative roles at Upland College caused a change in Boyer. As Kay notes in her book Many Mansions,

Ernie was also interested in the development of the curriculum and was formulating his own educational philosophy. Being a member of the college curriculum committee ignited his thinking and passion. . . . Given his passion, I started to understand his fascination with the subject and recognize the importance of the work he was doing on this committee; in many ways he would continue to do this work over the course of his life.

Today’s Photo Friday post is not only a formal answer to the student who posed the question of Boyer’s degrees; it is also a glimpse into the reality of the educational experience, which builds a foundation for one’s life and provides direction for the future.


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.


Photo Friday: From the Chancellor’s House to the “Warm Heart Mansion”

The Boyer family (Ernest L., Kay, Craig, and Stephen) packing a moving truck and preparing for their move from Albany, New York to Washington, D.C., so Ernest L. Boyer can take over as the United States Commissioner of Education. - BCA

The Boyer family (Ernest L., Kay, Craig, and Stephen) packing a moving truck and preparing for their move from Albany, New York to Washington, D.C., so Ernest L. Boyer can take over as the United States Commissioner of Education. – BCA

A few weeks ago, Service Fulfilled introduced readers to Many Mansions, the recently published memoir by Kay Boyer, wife of Ernie Boyer. In the book, Kay uses the various houses she and Ernie lived in to sketch a portrait of their lives together. That portrait includes reflections on family life, professional life, and religious life — and it especially showcases the many, many moves that the Boyers made in the course of their marriage!

Today’s Photo Friday depicts one of those moves: the move from what Kay calls the “Chancellor’s House Mansion” in Albany, New York (in which the Boyers lived while Ernie was head of the State University of New York system) to the “Warm Heart Mansion” in McLean, Virginia, where the Boyers lived during Ernie’s tenure as U.S. Commissioner of Education under President Jimmy Carter.

Here’s how Kay describes the move:

To economize, we rented a U-Haul truck to move all of our belongings from Chancellor house. Craig [the Boyers’ son] came home to help Ernie carry the furniture and boxes and pack the truck parked in the driveway. Again, the press came to document this whole scene, which they apparently found worthy of the front page of the Albany paper. They seemed to think it was strange for the past chancellor and the new U.S. commissioner of education to be loading up his family belongings in a U-Haul truck.

You can read more by purchasing Kay’s memoir, Many Mansions.


Photo Friday: At Home in the “Chancellor House Mansion”

Black and white photo of Ernest L. and Kay Boyer sitting in the living room of the SUNY chancellor’s home in Albany. - BCA

Black and white photo of Ernest L. and Kay Boyer sitting in the living room of the SUNY chancellor’s home in Albany. – BCA

Earlier this week, Service Fulfilled previewed Many Mansions: Lessons of Faith, Family, and Public Service (ACU Press, 2014), the recently-released memoir by Ernie Boyer’s wife, Kay. In the book, she traces her family’s life journey by focusing on the many homes they occupied throughout the U.S.: from their first “Honeymoon Cottage Magical Mansion” in Orlando, Florida, to their final “Family Home Mansion” in Princeton, N.J.

One of the mid-life homes — the “Chancellor House Mansion” — was the Boyer’s residence while Ernie served as the head of the State University of New York from 1971-1976. Today’s Photo Friday post showcases a photo of Ernie and Kay relaxing in that home. (More details about the photo here.)

In Many Mansions, Kay describes the house’s primary function: hospitality.

From our earliest days in the Chancellor House, we felt it was important to reach out with warmth and hospitality to many groups. Ernie wanted to focus his leadership on students, so our first big event at Chancellor House was a large reception for student-body presidents, members of student senates, and student editors from all of the sixty-four SUNY campuses. A little later, we gave a reception to show friendship to the people living on our street, and then to a large group of members of the news media. Ernie and I shook hands with everyone and then moved among the guests to show friendship.

The main function of the house was as a gathering place for the daylong meetings, special lunches, and formal dinners. These could involve groups of the campus presidents, administrators, faculty leaders, student representatives, Ernie’s central administrative staff, and others. The goal was to create a warm, friendly, home-like atmosphere that would make it easy to create personal connections. Ernie and I both made considerable efforts to remember each person’s name at every event. This was all part of his leadership style, and I enjoyed working in partnership with him. I planned the menus and directed events, which gave me wonderful opportunities to meet many outstanding students, faculty members, and administrators.

To read more about the “Chancellor House Mansion,” as well as the Boyer family’s other residences, check out Many Mansions, now available to purchase.