Scholarship honors College of Education’s first Black professor

Dr. James Boyer and his wife Enda Boyer in 2013. Courtesy of their son Alan Boyer

The family of James Boyer and Community First National Bank has endowed $50,000 to create a scholarship in honor of the late Dr. James Boyer, the first African American professor at Kansas State’s 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: the church, the family, and music,” Boyer said. “He loved education as well. … He started a lot of the programs that many of the university’s diversity initiatives are rooted in. He pioneered a lot of the curriculum in the College of Education when it comes to educating not only teachers about communicating across cultures, but also educating young people about communicating across cultures.”

Debbie Mercer, Dean of Education, said James Boyer’s impact is still felt in the College of Education.

“He established courses that really called out discrimination against any individual,” Mercer said. “I think that foundation is still seen … throughout every course that’s offered in this college. That’s what teaching is all about, right? It’s individualized at its very core, and so I think that those principles, those beliefs, helped form what’s currently our teacher education program.”

Boyer, professor of practice and assistant director of digital innovation media in K-State’s A.Q. Miller School of Media and Communication, said cross-cultural communication is important when teaching.

“In the classroom, back in the early 70s and until today, there are a lot of teachers who don’t ever 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 the education experience that much more enriched.”

Rob Stitt, president of Community First National Bank, said he got to know James Boyer when Boyer approached him for a loan to establish his church.

“Church loans aren’t extremely common for starting a brand new church so I had never done one before, but he had his job at K-State … and had a great reputation,” Stitt said. “So that’s something that we decided to do. … He was just very dynamic. A great motivator and spiritual person. People believed in him, wanted to follow him.”

Boyer said an exhibit honoring James Boyer began the conversation about the Champion of Diversity scholarship.

“Two years ago when Dean Mercer commissioned that mural, that exhibit in Bluemont Hall, [Stitt] saw the front page story in the Manhattan Mercury and called me and he said, ‘You know something 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 they settled on the amount for the endowment in the middle of 2022.

“The bank put in $25,000 and my family put in $25,000 to make that scholarship possible,” Boyer said.

Mercer said this scholarship will be recurring.

“An endowed scholarship means X number of dollars are in that scholarship account. It’s making money, it’s making interest and the interest is pushed off and that’s how much can be awarded in the scholarship every year,” Mercer said. “So here’s $50,000, and that means that there’ll be, say, $2,000 worth of interest every year and then I can award a $2,000 scholarship to an individual. So it depends on the amount of the endowment and how much money is earned to be able to push out.”

Mercer said interest on the endowment needs to be made before the scholarship can be awarded.

“If the money comes in, then 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 degree in education. The purpose of this scholarship is to continue his father’s legacy of drawing students of color to K-State.

“I think his presence inspired people to come to Kansas State … because he was a national figure in education and curriculum and instruction,” Boyer said. “When you think about being a champion of diversity, that is someone who is constantly thinking about, ‘How do we create opportunities? How do we build a workforce of educators who have the skill set to communicate across cultures?’ And so [James Boyer] being the champion of diversity, it just makes sense for the scholarship to be named that so that going forward the College of Education will be identifying 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 major impact of the scholarship is helping us toward our goal of diversifying our student population so that the diversity of teachers in the state of Kansas changes,” Mercer said. “So, we’re the largest preparer of teachers in Kansas, and we know by looking at Kansas teaching demographics that we have a large majority of teachers that are white women in Kansas classrooms, but we know that that’s not reflective of the students we have in the classroom.”

Hannah Sullivan, senior in music education, said creating a diverse culture in the College of Education is beneficial in the long run.

“I don’t know who said it, but … the classrooms that we’re in should look like the world that we will serve,” Sullivan said.