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: Connections in Cambridge

The River Cam on the campus of the University of Cambridge. - BCA

The River Cam on the campus of the University of Cambridge. – BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post features a scenic view of the River Cam, which cuts through the campus of Cambridge University in England. This photo was taken in 1976 when Ernie Boyer, his wife Kay, and their son Stephen were living in Cambridge while Ernie was on sabbatical through a fellowship with the university.

The relaxing views Boyer saw, like the on featured today, would have made great spot for reflecting on all of the ideas regarding education that he had accumulated during his time as Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY). Fortunately Boyer’s sabbatical also allowed time for him to put these ideas on paper. With the help of Martin “Marty” Kaplan, Boyer published one of his first book-length writings, Educating for Survival (1977). This work reveals some of Boyer’s basic thoughts about education, what it means to be educated, and even what it means to be human.

Yet it seems to me that these ideas might be summed up in one word: connections. Boyer expresses these ideas in a speech he gave to the United Nations Association in 1980. He stated:

There are two dramatic currents in the world today, currents that seem almost to be on a collision course. On the one hand we seem increasingly to want to fragment ourselves and build artificial barriers. While on the other hand the need for more togetherness becomes more and more urgent. I believe the task before us is- quite literally- educating for survival….

For educators the point of all of this is absolutely clear. I’m convinced that in the days ahead- students must be taught that all actions on this planet, whether physical or social, are inextricably interlocked. And I believe that international education which underscores the rule of law must be aggressively preserved. Well to be precise, I must confess that international education may not quite be the term. Students must consider not just the relationships of nations. They must also focus on the agenda of humanity itself.

Throughout the speech, Boyer gives numerous examples to show the need for students to understand their connection or lack of connection with the rest of the world, and the implications of these realities. In other words, if we learn from our connections with others, we can work together to provide a sustainable and civil global community. Thus we must ask questions such as, where will we get our food? How can our energy be equally shared? Can we have a balance between the population and the life support system of the earth? Boyer demonstrates the importance of this issue of connectivity simply through the title of this speech, “Educating for Survival.”

Therefore, today’s post demonstrates Ernie Boyer’s more philosophical thoughts on education and the seriousness with which he associated education with the world in which we live.

To read the rest of Boyer’s speech, click here.


Photo Friday: SUNY Inauguration: Celebrating 44 Years!

Ernest L. Boyer and Nelson A. Rockefeller on the day of his inauguration as Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY). -BCA

Monday April 6th 2015 marked the 44th anniversary of Ernest L. Boyer’s inauguration as chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY). Today’s Photo Friday commemorates the ceremony as Boyer stands alongside Nelson A. Rockefeller, then governor of New York State.

Boyer served as SUNY chancellor from 1970 to 1977. During that time, he helped to support major changes in the structure and typical perception of what makes a university. Even during his inauguration address, Boyer sets goals to guide the SUNY’s future. He called the university to stand together in the face of adversity by promoting unity, hope, determination, and effort. For example, Boyer proposed a “series of regional ‘Cooperative Councils on Higher Education’”. He supported creativity and reflective thinking on the part of students as well as the equality of teaching compared to research on the part of professors. He was in favor of new three-year institutions to allow flexibility for teaching and for the individual student. Finally, despite the “yawning chasm” between the campus and the surrounding town, Boyer advocated a deep connection between the university and the community.

In all of these ways, Boyer challenged the conventional methods of university life. Nevertheless, the significance of Boyer’s words extends far beyond the moment of his inauguration or his time as chancellor.

In his speech, Boyer states:

I do not for one moment misjudge the urgencies we face. They are very real. And yet, ultimately, the issue is not the gravity of the crisis but rather the quality of our response. The strength, the fiber of an institution, as in all of us, is not revealed in tranquil, easy times. Rather, character shines through when adversity looms large and hard choices must be made…Our future will be shaped, not by mysterious, invisible forces beyond ourselves, but by the convictions we agree to share and the actions we decide to take.

Although Boyer proposed many innovative programs as chancellor of SUNY, they are not the reason for celebrating his legacy. Rather, the principles that lay behind these innovations should be celebrated. Boyer understood that all of us will face struggles, but we can grow through them, not just individually, but collectively, by acting on the convictions we hold. Therefore, today’s post celebrates both the beginning and the continuation of a legacy that is felt today.

To read the rest of Boyer’s inauguration speech, click here. Or click here to learn more about Boyer and his time as chancellor of SUNY.


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: “Best Wishes” from Governor Nelson Rockefeller

Ernest L. Boyer with Elizabeth Moore, chair of the SUNY board of trustees, and New York Governor Nelson A Rockefeller, April 1974. -- BCA

Ernest L. Boyer with Elizabeth Moore, chair of the SUNY board of trustees, and New York Governor Nelson A Rockefeller, April 1974. — BCA

It would be interesting to know what Ernest L. Boyer thought of Nelson A. Rockefeller, the long-serving governor of New York State and later U.S. Vice President under Gerald Ford. Rockefeller was in office when Boyer served as chancellor of New York’s state university system (1970-1977), and to judge by the number of times “Rockefeller” shows up in a Boyer Center Archives’ online database search, it seems like they had considerable contact.

Yet Rockefeller once famously quipped, “I am imaginative [but] I am not bright.” And he wasn’t just being modest: Rockefeller lore is replete with laugh-worthy gaffes. A New York Times review of Rockefeller’s biography chronicles these embarrassments in this way:

Reading Richard Norton Smith’s fat biography is a task “Rocky” [as Rockefeller was known] himself, who had severe dyslexia, probably couldn’t have completed. He was painfully inarticulate, once praising a political colleague for doing his job “horrendously” when he probably meant “stupendously.” He displayed embarrassing ignorance. Impressed by a Thomas Aquinas quote he came across in a newspaper editorial, Rockefeller asked a staff aide to arrange a meeting with this astute theologian. Rockefeller’s grasp of science didn’t inspire much confidence either. After being briefed on the harm aerosol products were doing to the ozone layer, he asked: “How do all those spray cans get up there?”

While we may never know how Boyer — himself famously articulate — related to a man so prone to public blunders, we can say for sure that they both had a high regard for education. For all his slip-ups, Rockefeller — like Boyer — was a champion of education. His biographer, in fact, describes him as “revering education . . . ‘as a blind man does sight.'” Prime among the evidence for such an assertion is the fact that Rockefeller virtually invented the State University of New York (SUNY) system, rocketing its enrollment from 38,000 to 244,000 students.

These facts help explain Rockefeller’s inscription on today’s Photo Friday image: “To Ernie Boyer, from his friend and admirer with deep appreciation and best wishes for your continued success!”

To learn more about Rockefeller, check out this review of his biography, On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller.


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.

International Education

Ernie and Kay Boyer, Moscow April 1974.

Last week Messiah College celebrated “International Education Week.”  It provided an opportunity for the campus community to celebrate the various cultures represented among the student body and the strength those cultures add to the educational experience.  As a leader in education in the 20th century, Dr. Ernest L. Boyer played a fundamental role in promoting that very understanding.  Colleges must do everything in their power to establish and advance an intercultural exchange – bridging nations and cultures with one’s own is an education of itself that lasts beyond the classroom.

As the United States Commissioner of Education, Ernest L. Boyer was invited to speak at the Conference on International Education in Washington, D.C. on February 28, 1979.  In his speech he discussed his trip to Moscow, Russia the year before where he, as Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY), signed an agreement with representatives from Moscow State University, agreeing to an exchange of faculty and graduate students.  Four years earlier, in 1974, an original agreement between the two universities had been signed ensuring an undergraduate student exchange. This was the first compact of its kind between an American and Soviet educational institution.

Dr. Boyer was proud of his efforts to further the reach of international education and believed deeply it added needed dimension to one’s education.  Any reminder that global citizens are more alike than different was worthwhile in his book.  Boyer ended his speech at the Conference on International Education by saying: “I’m confident that as we better educate ourselves and make more sensitive the human spirit, we will indeed make our future more secure and prevent this angry, frightening world from self-destruction.”

Chancellor Boyer

Ernest L. Boyer as SUNY Chancellor.

On Monday the country will observe its 57th Presidential Inauguration.  In front of a massive crowd in Washington, D.C., and perhaps millions of Americans watching on their television sets, computer screens, or smart phones, Barack Obama will once again take the presidential oath of office and begin his second term as President of the United States of America.

Ernest L. Boyer knew about swearing-in ceremonies too.  Maybe not in front of millions of Americans – and people certainly weren’t watching on their smart phones in 1971.  But, on April 6, Boyer was inaugurated as the chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY) in Albany, New York.  At the ceremony, Chancellor Boyer delivered a speech entitled “To the Deeper Rituals.” The early ’70s was a time of turmoil for many public institutions of higher education. Aftershocks from the uprising and outcries of the late ’60s could still be felt and Boyer was very much aware of this reality.  Instead of shying away, he acknowledged the present challenges head on, claiming: “Campus turmoil of the recent past has ripped our institutional fabric, and we, in the university, enter the decade of the seventies much more sober and mature.”  To Chancellor Boyer, however, it did no good to dwell on the sobering realities SUNY faced.  Instead, he focused on the solutions.  “I do not for one moment misjudge the urgencies we face.  They are very real. And yet, ultimately, the issue is not the gravity of the crisis but rather the quality of the response.  The strength, the fiber, of an institution, as in all of us, is not revealed in tranquil, easy times.  Rather, character shines through when adversity looms large and hard choices must be made.”

As a college chancellor, Boyer launched new innovations and policies to further the reach of the SUNY system, which boasted 64 separate institutions, 350,000 students, and 15,000 faculty members.  One of his most notable accomplishments was establishing the Empire State College – an institution specifically designed to meet the unique needs of adult learners.  While chancellor, Boyer also created a Bachelor of Arts program that could be completed in three years and started the nation’s first student exchange program with the then Soviet Union.  Seems like Chancellor Boyer responded quite well – and pretty impressive considering he accomplished all that without a smart phone.