IN EVERY GENERATION there are those whose lives open paths in new directions, transform the landscape, and extend our vision. Ernest L. Boyer, the seventh president of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, was such a person. He was a leader of educators and an educator of leaders.
This is the last annual report covering the Boyer era of the Foundation, and we want to take this opportunity to remember both the man and his message. His life left an indelible mark on all of us who worked with him, and in passing from us last winter, he left an extraordinary legacy for the Foundation and for all who are concerned about education-the children and teachers, students and faculty, college administrators and staff, those engaged in public policy and the public engaged in educating their children, in this country and around the world.
Over a remarkable career that spanned four decades, Ernest L. Boyer proved himself to be one of the most articulate and well-reasoned voices in the history of American education. When he died at age sixty-seven, the loss was felt in the White House and the halls of Congress, in state houses and the most remote of school houses. President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton described Ernest Boyer as "one of the finest people we've known, not to mention one of our nation's most dedicated and influential education reformers." Former U.S. Senator Paul Simon called him "a man of backbone, vision, and an understanding of humanity that combined to make him superbly effective.... He enriched our nation in ways that cannot be counted.... He was a gentleman, a scholar, a dreamer and a doer." Senator Mark O. Hatfield said, "His leadership and vision helped to shape education in this country today and for future generations to come." And Alicia Thomas, a principal in San Antonio, Texas, said, "His life was very rich. He gave of himself, and in doing so earned the respect and love of all-family, friends, colleagues, and most especially teachers."
ERNEST LEROY BOYER WAS BORN in Dayton, Ohio, in 1928, the second of three sons, the grandson of a minister, the son of a Dayton businessman. As a child, he possessed what his younger brother described as "a boundless enthusiasm for life." Paul S. Boyer said that he witnessed' Ernie's good humor, his ability to resolve conflict and tensions with a joke, and "to invest any occasion with a little edge of excitement." Ernie made all feel at home, said Paul, now a historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with his "infectious smile... his genuine warmth, his capacity for friendship, the strength of his love for family."
Ernest Boyer himself often described his childhood as stimulating, with friends and softball and creative play. He spent his early years in the public schools of Dayton, where he learned a love of language, including what he always liked to call the languages of music and the arts. He then traveled to Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, to begin a life of study and service.
At the small but spirited college, Boyer continued to develop the intellectual enthusiasm and moral grounding that would later inspire his campaigns on behalf of education and school reform. He solidified his commitment to good works and helping others, and believed such a commitment was a crucial ingredient of education at every level. At Messiah, he also met his future wife and the mother of his four children, Kathryn Garis Tyson. And in subsequent years, he would return to Messiah to serve as chairman and as a member of its board of trustees.
After two years at Messiah, Boyer earned a bachelor of arts degree at Greenville College in Illinois. It was there, as a star of the college debating team, that he honed his verbal skills. He learned to create clear, concise language with clever juxtaposition of phrases, a skill which later became his trademark.
In 1950, he began graduate studies at Ohio State University, then moved west to the University of Southern California, where he earned the master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees in 1956. Boyer served a postdoctoral fellowship in medical audiology at the University of Iowa Hospital, and later continued his formal studies as a Distinguished Fulbright Scholar in India and Chile and as a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University.