About Ernest L. Boyer
Ernest L. Boyer, Sr.
A Leader of Educators, An Educator of Leaders
1928 - 1995
IN THE END, ERNEST BOYER was dedicated to a few basic tenets, among them, the belief that all children could learn and all children could succeed, regardless of their backgrounds. Whatever the level of schooling, Boyer fully recognized that "schools cannot do the job alone. You cannot have an island of excellence in a sea of indifference."
He argued that a "Commitment to education will help all students to be involved in the civic future of the nation-to vote in elections, to serve on juries, to be concerned about the health of their communities-to ensure that democracy will, with vitality, succeed."
A believer in the American Dream, he was a man of strong convictions. "Dreams can be fulfilled only when they've been defined," he would say. And in countless speeches he would assert that "the tragedy is not death. The tragedy is to die with commitments undefined, convictions undeclared, and service unfulfilled."
Ernest Boyer espoused a love of children and teachers and constantly reminded the long string of reporters always soliciting his comments and advice to keep in mind that educational institutions are about people, and that the promise of public education is to fulfill the American promise. "It is wrong to make promises to children and then walk away," he would say.
U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley has said: "Ernie was in many ways education's best friend. Education's own Mr. Fix-it.... His prolific body of writings will endure as a legacy of his passion for and commitment to teaching and learning."
In his eulogy for Boyer, Robert Hochstein, a close colleague and longtime assistant at HEW and later at The Camegie Foundation, noted how Boyer was intensely concerned about the appropriate settings for meetings. To this end, he would often fret about the spatial arrangements in a room, and then move the seating accordingly. It was a physical act, curious to some, yet it was symbolic of his ability to rearrange ideas, as well as people's thinking. The room arrangements functioned as his way of providing intimacy for discourse, Mr. Hochstein noted, to get people out of prec6nceived, fixed notions. To think anew. His books, reports, policy papers, and speeches all had a similar purpose.