About Ernest L. Boyer
Ernest L. Boyer, Sr.
A Leader of Educators, An Educator of Leaders
1928 - 1995
In 1960, wanting to make a broader impact on education, Boyer became director of the Western College Association's Commission to Improve the Education of Teachers. Two years later, his work led to his appointment at the University of California at Santa Barbara, as director of the Center for Coordinated Education. Both positions involved finding creative solutions to educational problems. It was this problem-solving gift that would distinguish Carnegie Foundation policy reports more than twenty years later.
By 1965, Boyer was known as a gifted speaker and an exuberant education leader, and he joined the mammoth State University of New York System, based in Albany, as its first executive dean. Three years later he was named vice president. He became known for managing large staff meetings and summarizing complex discussions. His work was so impressive that two years later, at the age of only 42, he was appointed chancellor of the SUNY system with its 64 institutions, 350,000 students, and 15,000 faculty members.
It was as SUNY chancellor that Boyer went about the arduous task of expanding and developing a complex state network of colleges and universities during exciting and trying times for higher education.
Chancellor Boyer launched the innovative and influential Empire State College in Saratoga Springs, an experimental and highly successful prototype for adult education that was imitated across the nation in the years that followed, as millions of adults returned to college for retraining and lifelong learning in a new economic age. In 1996, as Empire State College celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, it boasted 28,000 graduates.
Chancellor Boyer called for higher academic standards throughout the SUNY system and established an intensive, three-year bachelor of arts program to challenge the brightest students in the system and allow them to advance more quickly into graduate study.
To signal the importance of teaching as the critical art of higher education, even in a giant research institution, Boyer initiated a new rank of "Distinguished Teaching Professor." The post celebrated the achievements of great instruction and a commitment to student learning. He also started the nation's first undergraduate student exchange program with the Soviet Union, and later sponsored, and traveled with, the SUNY theater group that performed in Moscow and St. Petersburg.