James Boyer’s family and Community First National Bank have provided $50,000 to create a scholarship in honor of the late Dr. James Boyer, the first African-American professor at the Kansas State College of Education. Alan Boyer, son of James and Enda Boyer, said his father was known as the “champion of diversity” at Kansas State University.
“He had three loves: church, family and music,” Boyer said. “He also loved education. … You initiated many of the programs in which many of the university’s diversity initiatives are rooted. communicate across cultures.”
Debbie Mercer, Dean of Education, said James Boyer’s impact is still being felt in the College of Education.
“He instituted courses that really called out discrimination against any individual,” Mercer said. “I think the foundation is still visible…throughout every course offered in this college. That’s the teaching, right? It’s individualized at its core, so I think those principles, those beliefs, have helped shape what is currently our teacher education program.
Boyer, professor of practice and assistant director of digital innovation media at K-State’s AQ Miller School of Media and Communication, said cross-cultural communication is important when teaching.
“In the classroom, in the early 1970s and up until today, there are a lot of teachers who never teach someone from a different culture, and then there are students who never have a teacher from a different culture,” Boyer said. . “And so having that experience of being exposed to different cultures makes for a much more enriched educational experience.”
Rob Stitt, president of Community First National Bank, said he met James Boyer when Boyer asked him for a loan to start his church.
“Church loans aren’t very common for starting a brand new church, so I’d never done one before, but he had his job at K-State … and he had a great reputation,” Stitt said. “So that’s something we decided to do. … It was just very dynamic. A great motivator and spiritual person. People believed in him, they wanted to follow him.”
Boyer said an exhibit honoring James Boyer started the conversation about the Champion of Diversity Scholarship.
“Two years ago, when Dean Mercer commissioned that mural, that exhibit at Bluemont Hall, [Stitt] He saw the front page story in the Manhattan Mercury and he called me and said, “You know what Alan, your dad was a special man.” I want to do something. I don’t know what I want to do, but I want to do something.’ And so he and I got to talking and I talked to Dean Mercer and the foundation got involved,” Boyer said.
Boyer said he set the amount for the endowment in mid-2022.
“The bank put $25,000 and my family put $25,000 into making that scholarship possible,” Boyer said.
Mercer said this grant will be recurring.
“A subsidized scholarship means that X number of dollars are in that scholarship account. He’s making money, he’s making interest, and the interest is being rejected and that’s how much can be awarded in the grant each year,” Mercer said. 2,000 in interest every year and then I can give a $2,000 grant to an individual. So it depends on the amount of the endowment and how much money you make to be able to kick it out.”
Mercer said interest must be made on the endowment before the scholarship can be awarded.
“If the money comes in, we should be able to award the scholarship for fall 2023,” Mercer said.
Boyer said the criteria for this scholarship is a person of color pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education. The purpose of this scholarship is to continue his father’s legacy of attracting students of color to K-State.
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“I think his presence inspired people to come to the state of Kansas … because he was a national figure in education, curriculum and education,” Boyer said. “When you think of yourself as an advocate for diversity, is it someone who is constantly thinking ‘How do we create opportunities? How do we build a workforce of educators who have the skills to communicate across cultures?’ And so [James Boyer] being the champion of diversity, it makes sense that the scholarship be named so that going forward the College of Education will identify those people of color, who aspire to be educators.
Mercer said this scholarship can help bring diversity to education throughout Kansas.
“Within the college, I would say a big impact of scholarship is helping us achieve our goal of diversifying our student population so that teacher diversity in the state of Kansas changes,” Mercer said. “So, we’re the largest teacher coach in Kansas, and we know from looking at the Kansas teaching demographics that we have a large majority of teachers who are white women in Kansas classrooms, but we know that doesn’t reflect the students that we have in class”.
Hannah Sullivan, a senior in music education, said building a diverse culture in the College of Education is beneficial in the long run.
“I don’t know who said this, but…the classrooms we’re in should look like the world we’re going to serve,” Sullivan said.