Photo Friday: The Place of Learning

Ernest L. Boyer sitting at his desk at his welcoming party to Washington, DC as the new Commissioner of Education. - BCA

Ernest L. Boyer sitting at his desk at his welcoming party to Washington, DC as the new Commissioner of Education. – BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post features Ernie Boyer sitting at his desk at his welcome party as the United States Commissioner of Education in 1977. Many of the items seen on Boyer’s desk are now housed in the Boyer Archives, which shows just how significant these items were to Boyer’s work. While it may seem obvious, Boyer’s desk was a central location for his work. In fact, when Boyer became president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) he had two offices, one as his main CFAT office in New Jersey and the other in Washington, D.C., for when he traveled there on business.

But no matter which desk he was using, for Boyer the desk seemed to be both a place of personal satisfaction and of professional development. In terms of personal satisfaction, Boyer often kept three pictures on the wall by his desk of three people he admired: Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, and Albert Schweitzer. When meeting someone in his office, Boyer would use these pictures as a conversation piece. In addition, like many others, Boyer often used his desk to complete personal work such as answering calls, reading mail, or writing.

Yet, the desk was also a place of professional development. Often Boyer would meet individuals in his office for various reasons: discussing publications, conducting interviews, hosting personal visitors. It is likely that in this small office desk setting that more enlightening or at least more specific information could be discussed, as opposed to bigger discussions in a board meeting. Boyer supports this idea in an unpublished chapter titled “Literacy and Learning.” In it he states:

Several years ago, when I was Commissioner of Education, I walked unannounced into a sixth grade classroom in New Haven [Connecticut]. There were nearly thirty children crowding around the teacher’s desk. I discovered that, rather than confronting an emergency, I had, in fact, become part of a moment of great discovery The children had just finished reading Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, and these sixth graders in inner-city New Haven were rigorously debating whether little Oliver could make it in their city.

Even when observing little children, it is clear that the desk can be a place of engagement and learning. Therefore, today’s post features not just Boyer at his desk, but Boyer in the context in which he worked. His work place was both a home base for productivity and a place of great discovery. When these two factors come together, the desk becomes a place of learning.

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


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.

Scholarship Spotlight: Ernest L. Boyer: Hope for Today’s Universities

Ernest L. Boyer: Hope for Today’s Universities is a scholarly volume released in April 2015. Each chapter introduces a contemporary issue in higher education through an essay by a scholar who specializes in that topic. Yet, each chapter also contains unpublished writings by Ernie Boyer—writings in which Boyer addresses the same issues as the preceding essay. This is not meant to be an evaluation of Boyer’s ideas. Rather, by framing the book in this format the objective is to showcase the relevance and accessibility of Boyer’s ideas today. In the words of the editors Todd C. Ream and John M. Braxton:

While Boyer’s influence has found its way into a number of educational environments, to date no volume connects Boyer’s hope for today's universities resizedwisdom to the current generation of crises facing higher education. This volume seeks to fill that void…

This edited volume systematically matches selections from Boyer’s writings found in the archives housed at Messiah College to the literature concerning the current set of crises besieging higher education. As a result, each chapter opens with an introduction to the state of a particular crisis by a noted higher education scholar with research interest in that area. Beyond the literature in the subfield of higher education, these scholars consider arguments made in recent books…Following the introduction offered in relation to the particular crisis, the same scholar then provides a battery of Boyer’s unpublished writings that best respond to the crisis in question

By offering this paralleled structure, this volume is meant to appeal to four audiences: (1) those interested in the history of the State University of New York (SUNY); (2) higher education scholars; (3) college and university administrators; and (4) government policy makers. These audiences can draw their own connections by relating with the issues presented on higher education while also being introduced to Boyer’s ideas, thereby providing them with a solid background on Boyer’s history and his ideas to combat these issues.

We at the Boyer Center Archives are very excited about this new volume. Not only does it directly utilize information housed here at the archives, but also, the themes and purposes of the book directly coincide with our mission—relevance and accessibility.

We hope to explore this volume more in depth in the near future. Stay tuned!

To purchase a copy of Ernest L. Boyer: Hope for Today’s Universities, click here.


Behind the Scenes: Finding Aid in Progress

Photo of one example of the many boxes and documents being surveyed at the Boyer Center Archives. -BCA

Photo of one example of the many boxes and documents being surveyed at the Boyer Center Archives. -BCA

This summer, the staff of the Boyer Center Archives is working diligently to produce a finding aid for the collection. Once complete, this tool will allow individuals to better understand what documents can be found in the collection and where they are located, thereby providing greater accessibility and efficiency for research.

Currently, individual series scope and content notes are being produced for the finding aid. This process involves surveying the content of the boxes within that series to understand the range of time over Boyer’s career they were created. Moreover, the boxes are surveyed to understand the types and topics of the documents they contain. Lastly, the notes taken during the survey are then synthesized into paragraph form. In order to complete this process in the most effective manner, we are attempting to balance more meticulous and traditional archival processing methods with the faster MPLP (more product, less process) method. So far, scope and content notes have been written for half of the series in the collection. Once these are completed, we will write biographical and administrative histories as well as a container list for the collection.

However, as we progress with this project, a couple interesting conundrums have come up, each with its own positive and negative factors. The first is the overlap of material between different series. Although this could be seen as a positive factor, as it provides different avenues for researchers to explore, this overlap makes it difficult to articulate in a scope and content note how one series is different from another. The second conundrum, is understanding how the collection had been arranged prior to the arrival of the current archival staff. During the survey process, questions have arisen about why certain documents have been arranged as they are or where certain items are. Although it would prove too difficult to change certain parts of the established system at this point, we can and have changed certain aspects. For example, recently, we changed the name of one of the series from “Personnel Files” to “CFAT Administration Files” in order for the name to better match the content of the series.

Despite these challenges, our staff is very excited about this project and we look forward to making the finding aid available on the Boyer Center Archives website in the near future. Stay tuned for more updates on this and other projects happening at the Boyer Center Archives.

Access to the Archives: Spring 2014

All of the chapter manuscripts for Ernest L. Boyer’s Ready to Learn have been digitized and are available online for the convenience of researchers.  The two publications the archives team is currently working on are: School Choice and Campus Life: In Search of Community. Student workers are in the process of digitizing the School Choice manuscripts and records are currently being added for Boyer’s Campus Life report – digitization has begun for those boxes too.

Manuscript box 025 holds various manuscripts from the Carnegie Foundation publication "Campus Life: In Search of Community." All the archival processes for this box were completed on April 15, 2014.

Access to the Archives: End of Summer

As the summer is winding down, we here at the Boyer Archives are still scanning all the chapter manuscripts from the Carnegie Foundation publication Scholarship Reconsidered. Once the students return to Messiah College and our lovely work-study students are back in the archives all seven boxes full of the manuscripts will be available online soon!

Image: word cloud of Ernest L. Boyer’s speech “Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate.”