Scholarship Spotlight: Previewing a New Edition of Scholarship Reconsidered

Scholarship Reconsidered interview pageEditor’s Note: “Scholarship Spotlight” is semi-regular series of posts on Service Fulfilled. The goal of these posts is to highlight scholarly projects that utilize (in part or fully) the resources of the Boyer Center Archives, particularly the digital collection.

Anyone who’s ever spent time working in American higher education has certainly encountered the concept of scholarship. Academics, in many colleges and universities, do more than just teach courses — they also produce new knowledge, a process often called scholarship.

And perhaps one of the most influential studies of scholarship in American higher education comes from a familiar face around this blog: Ernie Boyer. In 1990, while serving as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Boyer published Scholarship Reconsidered, a bold, groundbreaking treatise introducing an academic model that expanded the traditional definition of scholarship and research into four types.

Twenty-five years later, three recognized scholars of American higher education — John Branson (Vanderbilt University) and Todd Ream and Drew Moser (Taylor University) — have highlighted Boyer’s singular contributions to our understanding of scholarship with an anniversary edition of Scholarship Reconsidered.

The expanded edition of Scholarship Reconsidered is now available from Jossey-Bass Publishers. And in recognition of its release, the latest issue of Advance — the magazine of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities — has published a conversation with one of the book’s editors, Dr. Drew Moser, and Boyer Center director Dr. Cynthia A. Wells. In the interview, Moser and Wells discuss the impact of Scholarship Reconsidered on higher education in general and Christian higher education in particular. Moser also highlights the Boyer Center Archives as “an important resource not only to Boyer scholars but more broadly to American higher education”!

Check out the interview (pp. 29-32) here!

Behind the Scenes: A New Way to Search

The Boyer Center Archives has a new-and-improved "look" for its online database.

The Boyer Center Archives has a new-and-improved “look” for its online catalog.

Editor’s Note: “Behind the Scenes” is a new, regular feature at the “Service Fulfilled” blog. It will offer periodic glimpses into the work of the Boyer Center Archives staff. In these posts, we’ll highlight new additions to the collection, current projects for archives staff, archival questions and conundrums we’re confronting, and other tidbits of interest to those who might use the collection. Stay tuned!

Many readers of Service Fulfilled have used the Boyer Center Archives’ online catalog (powered by PastPerfect Museum Software) to search for speeches, manuscripts, photographs, and other materials documenting the life and work of Ernest L. Boyer. If you have, you may have noticed that our catalog interface was a bit… well, let’s say “outdated.” Now, the Boyer Center Online has updated the look and feel of its catalog — and the result is a new and improved way to search our online holdings!

The new database functions quite similarly to the old catalog: researchers can still perform basic and advance searchers, and can scroll through “random images” from the collection. (Those with questions about using the online catalog should check out our Tips for Searching page at the Boyer Center Archives website.) But the new catalog has a few additional features, such as the ability to search only within the “archives” or “objects” record groups.

More than anything else, the catalog’s look and feel has been improved — resulting (we hope) in increased functionality, user friendliness, and aesthetic appeal.

Check out the new-and-improved catalog now!


Photo Friday: Keeping Children “at the Heart” of Education

Ernest and Kathryn Boyer speaking to two children while Boyer served as Chancellor of the State University of New York

Black and white photo of Ernest L. and Kay Boyer speaking to Scott and Kathleen Manly, the son and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Manly. – BCA

Ernie Boyer loved children — a fact that should be readily obvious to anyone seeing this week’s Photo Friday image.

The image speaks volumes about Boyer’s view of children and attitude toward their education. It shows Boyer engaged in a personal, face-to-face conversation with Scott Manly, a kindergarten student. Boyer is hunkered down, looking the child in the eyes and engaging the youngster on his level, not on a adult’s level. And this coming from a man who, at the time, was serving as the chancellor of one of the nation’s largest state university systems!

Boyer’s passion for children animated much of his life and career. As Senator Edward Kennedy wrote upon Boyer’s death in 1995:

More than anyone of his time, [Boyer] taught us that it is children, not just the schools, that should be the focus of our concern; that education is a community-wide effort which begins with the birth of a child; that supporting education is, more than any other challenge, not an expenditure but an investment; and that failure to act now will surely mean higher costs, wasted lives, promises unfulfilled. . . .

Ernie’s greatest gift to the nation was his unwavering commitment to education and to keeping all children at the heart of the nation’s agenda. And when Ernie said all children, he meant all children, so that none would be left out or left behind.

Today’s Photo Friday post celebrates Boyer’s “unwavering commitment” to keeping children “at the heart” of American education.


Quote of the Day

“Language is our most essential human function and its sets us apart from all other forms of life, the porpoise and bumblebee notwithstanding. The top priority for any collaboration, in my view, is to empower our students in the use of the written and the spoken word. Language is not just another subject[;] it is the means by which all other subjects are pursued. After all, language is the way we convey our feelings and ideas and define our humanity to others.”

— Ernest L. Boyer, Sr., in a 1987 speech titled, “College: Making the Connections,” delivered at SUNY Purchase as part of the President’s Leadership Forum

Behind the Scenes: Tips for Searching

The new "Tips for Searching" section on the Ernest L. Boyer Center Archives website

The new “Tips for Searching” section on the Ernest L. Boyer Center Archives website

Editor’s Note: Do you know about our “Behind the Scenes” regular feature here at Service Fulfilled? It’s where we offer periodic glimpses into the work of the Boyer Center Archives staff. Check out the first entry here, and be sure to stay tuned for future installments! 

Here at the Boyer Center Archives, we’re always looking for ways to improve researcher experience. That’s especially true for those researchers who never make it to the physical archive: those researchers who use our online catalog!

To that end, we’ve created a new page at our Boyer Center Archives website — one entirely devoted to tips for searching the online catalog! Check out the page, which is now live.

And if you have tips for how we can improve the online searching experience, let us know!


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: “Transforming These Empty Piles of Stone” at the Office of Education

Ernest L. Boyer uses a pointer to explain a chart about new educational strategies for the federal government.

Ernest L. Boyer at a press conference discussing new educational strategies from the federal government. – BCA

In 1977, Ernie Boyer made the transition from the chancellorship of the State University of New York to the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, D.C., where he served for two years as Commissioner of Education under President Jimmy Carter.

Ever an innovative thinker, Boyer brought a number of changes and new priorities to the “OE,” as the Office of Education was often called by its employees. Today’s Photo Friday highlights some of those changes.

Early in his time at OE, Boyer delivered a talk titled “The United States Office of Education: Reflections and Reaffirmation.” The talk, given during American Education Week in November 1977, traced the growth and development of the OE throughout American history and articulated some key changes for the future.

Here’s a taste of Boyer’s speech:

The United States Office of Education has, [throughout its history], become one of the most diversified, most complicated, and most consequential institutions in this Nation. And every day those of you assembled here come to work at something called “OE,” transforming these empty piles of stone into a living institution. . . .

But here I must strike a more somber note. For it is quite clear to me that the Office of Education — as an institution — also faces problems. Since arriving here I’ve met confusion about the mission of the office. I sensed that many of our colleagues feel trapped in bureaucratic boxes. I’ve also sensed that all too often talents are not fully used. Good ideas go unnoticed, or worse still — they are suppressed. Most seriously, perhaps, we don’t have effective ways to communicate with one another. And we do not develop fully the professional abilities of our staff.

These symptoms are not uncommon to bureaucracies. They are found everywhere. But while OE has its share of problems it has something else as well. We have here a high aspiration for our agency, a reservoir of talent, [and] an eagerness to work for self-improvement, and these are precious assets which also give us special strength.

To read Boyer’s complete address, click here.


Plan NOW To Attend the 2015 Boyer Center Symposium!

symposium-posterConstructing Hope: Inspired Learning in an Age of Accountability,” the 2015 symposium sponsored by the Ernest L. Boyer Center at Messiah College, will be held on Messiah’s Mechanicsburg campus on Thursday, October 8, 2015, from 4-7 p.m.

More details about the symposium — including keynote speaker, program lineup, and other items — are available on the Boyer Center website.

Plan now to attend what promises to be an exciting, generative conversation on the hope and promise of education in a challenging time!


Quote of the Day

“By the time [today’s students] graduate from secondary school, they [will] have watched television 16,000 hours, compared to 11,000 spent with their teachers. . . .

“[Meanwhile,] calculators can solve problems faster than the human brain, and computers can retrieve instantly millions of information units. . . .

“But television, calculators, and computers cannot — and will not — make discriminatory judgements. They cannot — or will not — teach the students wisdom. The challenge of the future is not to fight or imitate the electronic teacher. Rather, the challenge is to build a partnership between traditional and non-traditional education, letting each do what it can do best.”

— Ernest L. Boyer, in a speech on non-traditional forms of education, delivered at the dedication of the Paul G. Bulger Lifelong Learning Center at SUNY Buffalo in 1983.

Behind the Scenes: Pictures Worth Thousands of Words

One of the many Boyer photo albums currently being digitized and added to our online collection.

One of the many Boyer photo albums currently being digitized and added to our online collection.

Editor’s Note: “Behind the Scenes” is a new, regular feature at the “Service Fulfilled” blog. It will offer periodic glimpses into the work of the Boyer Center Archives staff. In these posts, we’ll highlight new additions to the collection, current projects for archives staff, archival questions and conundrums we’re confronting, and other tidbits of interest to those who might use the collection. Stay tuned!

While much of the Boyer Center Archives collection is text-based, a sizable portion of the collection is photographic. Our photo collection documents Boyer in various stages of life, often participating in programs, events, and celebrations. Many of these images are housed in photo albums arranged by Boyer’s wife, Kay, at various stages in her husband’s career.

Over the last several months, one of the key projects for Archives staff has been scanning and creating metadata for the important images contained within these photo albums — images that add immeasurably to the rich resources provided by the Archives.

For instance, you’ve long been able to read a digitized copy of Boyer’s inaugural address, delivered when he became chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY) in 1971. But now, thanks to the digitization of these albums, you can also see Boyer reading that address, or see the New York State politicians and educators who attended Boyer’s inauguration, or see snapshots of the reception related to Boyer’s inauguration.

In the coming months, we’ll be developing virtual exhibits that will allow users to digitally “browse” these albums in their entirety. In the meantime, you can search the Boyer Center Archives’ photo collection by visiting our catalog, selecting “Advanced Search” on the left-hand menu, checking only the “Photos” option at the top of the search menu, and typing keywords or search terms into the relevant boxes.



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: The “Shaping of an Educated Heart”

Black and white photograph of Ernest L. Boyer receiving an honorary degree from Fordham University. - BCA

Black and white photograph of Ernest L. Boyer receiving an honorary degree from Fordham University. – BCA

Last week’s Photo Friday showcased Ernie Boyer’s many, many honorary degrees — and the decorative quilt creatively constructed from them!

This week’s post zeroes in on one of those honorary degrees — a doctorate conferred by Fordham University in New York City in 1973 — and the speech Boyer gave at its acceptance.

Continue reading

Boyer, Franklin, and the Social Purpose of American Education: A Recap of Dr. Ira Harkavy’s 2015 Boyer Award Acceptance Speech

Dr. Ira Harkavy, recipient of the 2015 Ernest L. Boyer Award from the New American Colleges & Universities, delivers his acceptance speech last week.

Dr. Ira Harkavy, recipient of the 2015 Ernest L. Boyer Award from the New American Colleges & Universities, delivers his acceptance speech last week.

by Cynthia A. Wells

Last week, I was in Washington, D.C., for the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges & Universities. And as we mentioned on the blog last week, the AAC&U meeting was the forum in which Dr. Ira Harkavy of the University of Pennsylvania received his much-deserved 2015 Ernest L. Boyer Award from the New American Colleges and Universities (ANAC). I was privileged to attend Dr. Harkavy’s acceptance speech. Here’s a quick summary.

In accepting the Boyer Award, Dr. Harkavy delivered an incredibly thoughtful and inspirational address. His words interwove the history of higher education, the words of Ernie Boyer, the founding of the University of Pennsylvania, and the mission and work of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships as he laid out his argument for the connected university, an institution that lives out a commitment to the broad social impacts of higher education.

Harkavy asserted a key idea that unites the work of Ernest L. Boyer and Benjamin Franklin: “That core idea,” he said, “is this: Service is the basis for their revolutionary vision of higher education”. Harkavy continued,

The purpose of higher education is service to society, for the progressive betterment of the human condition. And to realize that purpose, Franklin in 1749 and Boyer two hundred and forty-five years later in 1994, each wrote in effect proposals to create the New American College. Franklin broke with tradition by founding the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) as deliberately unaffiliated from any religious denomination and therefore radically different from existing institutions of higher education in America or Europe. The College of Philadelphia was ‘dedicated to the advancement of scientific learning and knowledge for the betterment of humanity.’

While Boyer, a 1948 graduate of Messiah Bible College (now Messiah College) had a radically different religious orientation than the deist Franklin, he could not have agreed more with Franklin’s view that American higher education had a social mission. And for Boyer that mission specifically was realizing America’s founding democratic purpose. In 1994, in what has been extraordinarily influential in forming the New American College, he wrote: ‘Higher education and the larger purposes of American society have been from the very first inextricably intertwined.’

Warm congratulations to Ira Harvavy for this well-deserved honor! Thank you for your wonderful address that was such a meaningful tribute to the Netter Center, to the good work of ANAC, and to the ongoing and generative influence of Ernest L. Boyer.

Scholarship Spotlight: Themed Issue of Christian Higher Education Journal on Ernest L. Boyer

Editor’s Note: This “Scholarship Spotlight” is the first of what we hope will become a regular or semi-regular series of posts on the site. The goal with these posts is to highlight scholarly projects that utilize (in part or fully) the resources of the Boyer Center Archives, particularly the digital collection. Stay tuned for future entries in this series!

Christian Higher Education journal

Christian Higher Education journal

Creative Calls for Coherence: Ernest L. Boyer and Christian Higher Education” was the theme for a special 2014 issue of Christian Higher Education, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal focused on issues and problems in contemporary Christian higher education. Published by Taylor & Francis, the issue is available online for free.

Guest edited by Taylor University scholar Todd C. Ream, the special issue explores Boyer’s considerable influence on education, especially Christian higher education.

The issue focuses on Boyer’s “creative call for coherence.” As explained in a preview for the issue:

[Boyer’s creative call for coherence], or his compulsion to draw together the frayed intellectual and/or social threads defining our society, offers a powerful means of assessing his significant impact on education. Although anecdotal evidence indicates Boyer’s ideas influenced a number of Christian colleges and universities, no systematic efforts come to terms with this influence.  This theme issue attempts to provide some basic frameworks for further research efforts while also looking at the impact Boyer’s Christian college experiences had upon him.

The first half of this issue seeks to introduce Boyer’s life, his faith, and the influence of Christian higher education on him. The second half of this issue is topical in nature and explores Boyer’s influence on some critical dimensions of the lives of Christian colleges and universities.

In his opening article, Ream highlights the work of the Boyer Center Archives in preserving and making accessible Boyer’s intellectual legacy:

Although Boyer passed away almost 20 years ago, his work continues to receive considerable interest absent a biography of him in any form. Most of Boyer’s publicly accessible works are found in reports published by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For example, in Creating Campus Community: In Search of Ernest Boyer’s Legacy (Jossey-Bass, 2002), William M. McDonald and associates reviewed the impact Boyer’s reports had on how educators now design both curricular and cocurricular learning communities. In a comparable sense, John Braxton, William Luckey, and Patricia Helland’s Institutionalizing a Broader View of Scholarship Through Boyer’s Four Domains (Jossey-Bass, 2002) considers the impact of the ideas Boyer offered in Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990).

However, until recently a considerable number of Boyer’s ideas remained inaccessible to the general public. Initially, Boyer’s unpublished papers were housed in Princeton, New Jersey, under the care of the Carnegie Foundation. In the late 1990s, those materials (primarily comprised of large numbers of speeches and letters) were transferred to Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Over the last several years, officials at Messiah have labored to make those items available to the public via a digitized archive system.

The completion of this process proves to be of considerable benefit to a number of groups, with one such group being scholars concerned with the well-being of Christian higher education.

Several articles in the issue, including Taylor University historian Drew Moser’s “Ernest L. Boyer and the American Christian College: Historical Considerations,” draw extensively on material from the archives.

The full table of contents for the issue includes:

  • Todd C. Ream, “Creative Calls for Coherence: Ernest L. Boyer and Christian Higher Education”
  • Paul S. Boyer, “Ernest L. Boyer’s Career in the Context of Post-World War II American Education”
  • Douglas Jacobsen & Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, “The Religious Roots of Ernest L. Boyer’s Educational Vision: A Theology of Public Pietism”
  • Drew Moser, “Ernest L. Boyer and the American Christian College: Historical Considerations”
  • Cynthia A. Wells, “Renewing Our Shared Purpose: Considering Ernest L. Boyer’s General Education Vision for Christian Colleges and Universities”
  • C. Skip Trudeau & Timothy W. Herrmann, “Ernest L. Boyer, the Christian College, and the Uneasy Tension between the Curriculum and the Cocurriculum”
  • David I. Smith, Joonyong Um, & Claudia D. Beversluis, “The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in a Christian Context”

Photo Friday: A Quilt of Many Honorary Degrees

Boyer's quilt of doctoral hoods, made by his mother, Ethel, on display at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey. - BCA

In this undated photo, likely from the 1980s or 1990s, Boyer’s quilt of doctoral hoods, made by his mother, Ethel, hangs on display at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey. – BCA

In his lifetime, Ernie Boyer earned many, many honorary degrees. His achievements as SUNY chancellor, U.S. Commissioner of Education, and president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching — among other professional accomplishments — led to honorary conferrals from well-regarded institutions of higher learning, like the College of William and Mary and Fordham University, to lesser-known institutions like Hope College and Alfred University.

In fact, at one point in his career he’d earned so many honorary degrees that his mother, Ethel Boyer, used the academic hoods given to him to stitch a decorative quilt! That quilt is the focus of today’s Photo Friday post. (For another shot of the quilt, click here.)

Today, this fascinating piece of Boyer memorabilia is a part of the Boyer Center Archives’ object collection and hangs on display in the Boyer Center office at Messiah College. On your next visit to campus, stop by and check it out!

To see photos of Boyer receiving honorary degrees, click here.


Boyer Award Given by New American Colleges & Universities

Tomorrow, at the annual American Association of Colleges & Universities meeting in Washington, D.C., a University of Pennsylvania administrator will receive the Ernest L. Boyer Award for his leadership of a unique Penn program focused on community engagement.

Here’s the press release from the University of Pennsylvania:

Ira Harkavy, the associate vice president and founding director of the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania, will be honored with the fifth annual Ernest L. Boyer Award on Jan. 23 during the annual Association of American Colleges & Universities meeting in Washington, D.C.

Awarded by New American Colleges & Universities, a consortium of private, comprehensive colleges that are grounded in the liberal arts tradition, the award honors an individual who has made outstanding contributions to higher education.

Harkavy was selected for his pioneering work in university-community partnerships and the civic engagement of students and faculty. . . .

The Netter Center now focuses on two primary approaches that allow Penn to connect with the West Philadelphia community: academically based community service courses and university-assisted community school partnerships.

Academically based community service courses are a form of service learning that’s focused on real world problem solving, such as those related to poverty, education and health care. These integrate learning, community service, teaching and research. . . .

After receiving his award, Harkavy will present a lecture on “Creating the Connected Institution: Toward Realizing Benjamin Franklin’s and Ernest Boyer’s Revolutionary Vision for American Higher Education.”

Read more about the Boyer Award (including a list of past winners) at the NAC&U website. Read the complete Penn release here.

What Would Boyer Think About Free Community College?

Ernest L. Boyer speaking at the 1977 American Association of School Administrators (AASA) Convention. - BCA

Ernest L. Boyer speaking at the 1977 American Association of School Administrators (AASA) Convention. – BCA

Editor’s Note: Last night in his “State of the Union” address, President Barack Obama announced, among other proposals, his plan to provide two free years of community college education to American citizens. In her first post here at the blog, Dr. Cynthia A. Wells — director of the Ernest L. Boyer Center at Messiah College — reflects on the question: What would Ernest L. Boyer have thought about the President’s plan?

By Cynthia A. Wells

In 1972, Ernest L. Boyer delivered a speech entitled “Thinking about the Unthinkable: Tuition and Student Fees in Public Higher Education.” In that speech, he outlined some useful ideas for considering the connections between public funding and educational access. He notes that few issues are capable of generating so much heat as the question of who should pay the bill.

This is a helpful reminder as we consider President Obama’s proposal of a “bold plan to reduce the cost of community college . . . to zero” put forth in his  State of the Union address. Debate as to the merits and challenges of the plan, entitled “America’s College Promise,” is widespread.  Jeff Selingo suggests that free community college is a response to the “middle-skills gap,” that it helps individuals acquire those skills that don’t require a four-year degree but are not outcomes of a high school education.   Julie Hirschfield Davis and Tamar Lewin, in their coverage of the proposal in the New York Times, describe the proposal’s capacity to transform publicly financed higher education in order to address growing economic inequality.


Discussion as to the merits and challenges of the community college funding proposal is no doubt just warming up, and Boyer’s 1972 text offers some generative ideas as we consider it.

First, Boyer reminds us that over our national history, the basic level of education judged to be essential for the coming generation has progressively risen. Indeed, in the late 19th century, grade 12 replaced grade 8 as a minimum level of necessary education.  The demands of the 21st century require looking anew at what education is considered (and funded) to be universal.

Second, public policy related to higher education attends to enriching both the lives of individuals and the well-being of our society.  Boyer said, “The central principle to be affirmed is the right of every American to receive . . . the education needed to achieve personal dignity and economic independence. Historically, and in practical terms, this means that public funds are used to provide a basic level of free schooling for the children of all citizens, believing that in this fashion each successive generation may make the maximum possible contribution to the common good.”

So, what would Boyer think about the President’s proposal? We can’t say with any certainty, but this speech — and others — offer a starting place for reflection.


Quote of the Day

“[D]eep down inside, the belief persists that education at its best can hold the intellectual center of society together. . . . And this—it seems to me—is precisely the point where “the humanities” move center stage. There is, I believe, more than an accidental connection between such words as human, humane and humanities. They identify an area of inquiry with people at the center. The humanities focus on the consequential common experiences of the human race and in so doing they seek to integrate and give meaning to all the [disciplines].”

— Ernest L. Boyer, in a manuscript published by the Community College Humanities Association, 1981.

Read the full manuscript here.

Boyer on the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  in 1964 -- Wikimedia Commons

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1964 — Wikimedia Commons

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday honoring the birth of an American civil rights leader, activist, and religious leader. Across the country, people will be reflecting on the life and legacy of Dr. King and participating in acts of service as a way of remembering his important role in our national history and in the quest for civil rights for African Americans.

In 1988, at a conference sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, Dr. Boyer shared his own reflections on Dr. King’s legacy and its relevance to American education. In the speech, Boyer highlights three aspects of King’s life and career on which student should focus. Here’s an excerpt of the speech:

We all rejoice, of course, that a national holiday has been dedicated to the memory of this extraordinary individual.

But it is my conviction—and it shall be the theme of my remarks today—that

if we fail to bring the message of Dr. King into the nation’s classrooms, memories will fade, our celebration will become increasingly superficial, and the holiday will be a time when we remember only the symbols, not the substance, of his work.

Specifically, I’m convinced that the curriculum in our schools should include a study of Reverend King for three essential reasons:

First, all students should study the life of Martin Luther King to understand, more precisely, the social and intellectual heritage of our nation. . . .

[Second,] I’m convinced that all students should learn about Martin Luther King not only to gain historical perspective, but also to understand the power and poetry of the written and spoken word. . . .

[Third,] all students also should study the life of Martin Luther King to understand more fully the relationship between what they learn and how they live.

Read the entire speech here.


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.


Quote of the Day

From the very first, community colleges, often called “the people’s colleges,” have stirred an egalitarian zeal among their members. . . . [But] The inspired sense of purpose that drove the growth of two-year colleges has somewhat eroded, and, in the hierarchy of American higher education, too many people look condescendingly at the system. But most disturbing, perhaps, the percentage of students transferring from community colleges to senior institutions has declined, and the argument is being made that educational opportunities, especially for minority students, are too restricted. . . .

By sharpening their goals and strengthening their academic core, community colleges can continue to fulfill, in new and creative ways, their traditional mission as “colleges of the people.”

— Ernest L. Boyer, in “Community of colleges ready for a facelift,” published in The Times Higher Education Supplement, May 6, 1988. (Boyer had a regular column in this publication for many years.)

Read the whole article here.


Photo Friday: Molding the Life of a Future Educator

Photo of Ernest L. Boyer as a 1948 graduate of Messiah Bible College -- BCA

Photo of Ernest L. Boyer as a 1948 graduate of Messiah Bible College — BCA

Blogger’s Note: This post launches a new regular series here at the “Service Fulfilled” blog: Photo Friday! Each week, we’ll highlight a new image from the Archives’ photographic collection. Our image collection (which is only partially digitized) documents each and every stage of Boyer’s life, from his early years in Dayton, Ohio, to his latter years in Princeton, New Jersey. So entries in this regular series will provide an understanding of Boyer’s life and work from many different times and at many different places. Enjoy!

By the time this post goes live, the spring semester at Messiah College — the institutional “home” of the Boyer Center and its archive — will be well underway. Students have returned from their winter break and have entered into a new season of classes and extra-curricular activities. Campus is buzzing with activity now that students are back and another semester has begun!

Here in the Boyer Center Archives, the start of a new semester has me thinking about the student days of Ernie Boyer, who attended what was then Messiah Bible College from 1946-1948. (He had graduated from Messiah Academy, a two-year high school-like program, earlier.)Boyer’s 1948 graduation photo is highlighted in today’s post.

By most accounts, Boyer was a model student at the Bible College — beloved by his teachers, and popular with his fellow students. As the College’s academic dean wrote to Boyer’s father, Clarence, in 1946, “Ernest is well respected by the student body. We feel much of this is due to the interest which you as parents have had in molding his life.”

As you might suspect, Messiah was a very different institution back in the early 20th century! At the time it was owned by the Brethren in Christ Church (it no longer has legal ties to the denomination, although it maintains a close relationship) and emphasized training for missions and religious service over other vocations.

Still, the College’s present-day educational commitments — to academic excellence, to training for service and leadership, to emphasis on building community — are very much rooted in its history. In fact, in later years, Boyer would comment on the College’s “legacy” and the ways that its past continue to influence its present mission and identity. What’s more, these commitments clearly shaped Boyer personally, since he would later go on to champion such issues as education for service and community-building on campus.

We’ll be sure to highlight Boyer’s time as a college student — both at Messiah and his undergraduate alma mater, Greenville College — in future posts. Stay tuned!


Quote of the Day

It is my urgent hope that by the next century this nation will give more recognition and more status to the teacher. . . .

Excellence in Education means Excellence in Teaching. And . . . if the future of this nation is to be made secure, our top priority must be to give more status and more recognition to the teacher.

— Ernest L. Boyer, “Education in the Year 2000,” delivered at the University of Wisconsin system’s conference on teacher education, December 15, 1988.

Read the full speech here.

We’re Back!

Welcome to Service Fulfilled, the new and improved blog of the Ernest L. Boyer Center Archives at Messiah College!

Our blog takes its name from a quotation that Ernest L. Boyer often used in his speeches:

“The tragedy of life is not death, it is destined for us all. The tragedy of life is to die with convictions undeclared, and service unfulfilled.”

When Boyer passed away in 1995, he left behind a legacy of fulfilled service to America’s students, parents, and educators. This blog — and the archive that sponsors it — is dedicated to preserving and providing access to the speeches, manuscripts, and other documents that capture Boyer’s legacy for future generations.

Stay tuned for posts that showcase the valuable resources of the Boyer Center Archives; that offer behind-the-scenes “sneak peeks” at the goings-on in the Archives; that connect Boyer’s writings to contemporary issues in American education; and that advertise news, events, and current and future projects of the Ernest L. Boyer Center at Messiah College!