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 Boyer supports this idea in an unpublished chapter titled “Literacy and Learning.”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: Memories of Cake

The cake at Ernest L. Boyer's welcome party as the new United States Commissioner of Education.- BCA

The cake at Ernest L. Boyer’s welcome party as the new United States Commissioner of Education.- BCA

In 1988 Boyer wrote an article for the London Times Higher Education Supplement column titled, “Doubts Raised on Division of Three-Tier Cake.” When coming up with this title, it’s possible that Boyer thought back to his welcome party as the new United States Commissioner of Education, during which he was presented with a big tiered cake. This cake is the featured picture of today’s post.

In the London Times article, Boyer describes the three-tiered system of the California higher education system and how it was meant to operate. Starting with the third tier and ending with the first, he states that ideally:

The University of California, with its nine separate institutions, would be highly selective, and carry the primary responsibility for doctorate education and research. The 19 campuses of the state university system would be less selective. They would offer masters but no doctorate degrees and support more limited research. The 106 community colleges would be the point of entry for most students but provide transfer to senior institutions. Thus California designed a system that embraced elitism and openness, selectivity and mobility as well.

However, after 25 years of this system, reality overtook the design. Instead of focusing on the idea of transferring to higher tiers in the education system, community colleges began to focus more on serving adults, Latino/a, and black students who often were unwilling to transfer. Among state universities, professors “worried that without students in Ph.D. programs they could not adequately pursue advanced scholarship.” This worry stemmed from the fact that the University of California emphasized research to the point that the commitment to undergraduate education was questioned. Yet, Boyer also notes that the commission hired by the state of California to assess the system, believed that these problems would be compounded when Latino/as and blacks made up the majority of students in community colleges. Thus, it became necessary to take action.

The commission recommended that the interrelationship of the institutions be reaffirmed in order to effectively serve the more disadvantaged students by informing them of the transfer options the system allowed for. Second, it called for a shift in the faculty reward system, professors would be given credit for working with colleagues in public schools as opposed to relying on research for promotions. Third, the commission emphasized the need to give “appropriate priority” to teaching as well as curriculum created by both faculty and governing boards. Last, the University of California remained the doctorate granting sector. However, joint doctoral programs between the State University and the University of California were proposed. Therefore, “California’s revised master plan has thoughtfully established new priorities for American higher education.”

While today’s featured photo does not directly relate to the article described, the cake is nevertheless an important representation of Boyer’s analysis of California’s higher education system in the 1980s. If the layers of a tiered cake are separated, the quality and aesthetic impact of the cake is diminished. In the same way, Boyer affirmed the California commission’s decisions to strengthen the connectivity between the tiers of California higher education.

To read the rest of Boyer’s article, 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: The Arts, Education, and Leadership

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Ernest L. Boyer with Joan Kennedy Smith (left) and Vivienne Anderson (right) at the Very Special Arts Festival at the Kennedy Center. – BCA

Today’s Photo Friday post shows Ernie Boyer admiring a piece of art at the Very Special Arts Festival at the Kennedy Center in 1978. At the time, Boyer was the United States Commissioner of Education, one of the highest leadership positions in the field of education. Today we often perceive such government leaders as seeking to reduce funding for subjects that are not a part of standardized tests, including art and music.

However, Ernie Boyer was not such a leader. He strongly believed that the arts and education belong together, not because the arts will help students with their math skills, but because the arts allow students to develop something which goes beyond what a test can gauge. Boyer returned to the Kennedy Center one year later in 1979 and gave a speech on the arts. He stated:

It has been said that humans are distinguishable from animals because of language. I would take one further step. I’m suggesting that what separates humans from humans-at-their-best are art, color, rhyme, rhythm, form, sound, and movement. The arts give expression to the profound urgings of the human spirit, which very often “words and phonemes” cannot capture. The arts validate our feelings in a world that deadens feelings, and they organize our perceptions and give meaningful coherence to existence…

What I’m suggesting is, that through the arts our schools can help every student achieve what on another occasion I called “the educated heart.” The educated heart means to me an expectation of beauty, a tolerance of others, a reaching for beauty without arrogance, a courtesy toward opposing views, a dedication to fairness and social justice, a love for graceful expression. I recognize that these are lofty goals- some may say sentimental, but I am convinced that they are within our grasp, and certainly within our dreams.

It is often said that the mark of a true leader is the vision he or she has for the future. In this way, Boyer went above and beyond his call as Commissioner of Education. Most people would think of an administrator as being concerned with relaying information to those underneath them and they would do the same for those below them and so on. However, Boyer’s focus was on all of the students at the bottom of this chain. Going further, his focus was also on how these students interact. How are schools effective if students are not taught how to fully communicate the knowledge they have learned? Boyer understood that expression and understanding are key for both human development and cohesion within a community. But, this can only be accomplished through the arts, as they provide numerous ways to convey feelings when words are not enough.

Therefore, today’s post pays tribute to the importance of the arts, its connection to education, and Boyer’s vision for this connection.

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


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.



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.

Hello world!

Question for you.  Are you familiar with the life and work of Dr. Ernest L. Boyer?  If you answered yes, congratulations!  If no, then that’s why we are here.

This blog will serve as the voice for the Ernest L. Boyer Center Archives of Messiah College.  Currently the archives contains over 480 linear feet of manuscripts, audio and visual materials, correspondence, speeches, and other materials documenting the life and work of Dr. Boyer.

So who was he and why should you care?

Dr. Boyer was a pioneer in the world of American education in the 20th century.  He most notably served as the United States Commissioner of Education under President Jimmy Carter, and then went on to lead the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) as their president from 1979-1995.  At the time of his death, in 1995, his colleague, Samuel G. Sava, called him the “foremost educator of our time.”

Since Dr. Boyer’s education began at a small two-year bible college in central Pennsylvania, his family thought it right to donate his personal library and archives to Messiah College.  In 1998, the Ernest L. Boyer Center was established at Messiah College to promote learning, advance scholarship, foster community, engage society, and educate “servant leaders” – goals Dr. Boyer held close to his heart throughout his whole career.  The Boyer Archives is a large facility to help ensure these realities in American education.

The Ernest L. Boyer Center Archives is a great resource for students and scholars alike in the field of education.  Currently the archival staff is working to promote the work and legacy of Dr. Boyer by cataloging and digitizing its holdings and then making materials available for researchers online.

Interested in learning more about Dr. Boyer and how his work continues in the 21st century?  Stick with us.