A Tribute to Paul Boyer

Volume 26, No. 1 - Fall 2014
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The architects of TCJ, from left, Joe McDonald with wife Sheri, Ernest Boyer, and Paul Boyer.

Tribal College Journal celebrates its 25th birthday this year, and I think it is only proper to recognize Paul Boyer, the founding editor of the journal. It was his initiative and perseverance that brought forth the first copy of the publication: “From the Past, the Future,” volume 1, Summer 1989, Special Edition. Produced in his spare bedroom in Sacramento, California, the journal was a dream of many tribal college presidents at that time. We wanted to tell the world the wonderful and productive things the tribal colleges were doing; we wanted to share our successes with one another; and we wanted to provide an avenue for our faculty and staff to publish.

We had concerns. Would we have enough material to keep a publication going? How would we pay for it, as we all had tight budgets? How could we make it a publication that was recognized by the academic community? Paul took on all of these problems and met them head on. He was able to get many of the presidents and their staff members to write articles. He wrote many himself. We called it a “refereed” journal in that the contents of each issue were approved by a group of scholars recognized by the higher education community. The original editorial board was made up of Robert Bigart of Salish Kootenai College (SKC), Jack Forbes (Powhatan) of the University of California at Davis, John Red Horse (Cherokee) of University of California at Los Angeles, and O. Tacheeni Scott (Diné)of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching helped the project get started by awarding the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) $15,000 toward the publication of the journal. Since our AIHEC central office was not organized to administer grants at that time, the money was administered by SKC.

An advisory board was formed to help Paul select the themes for the issues and help raise funds for publication. The original advisory board was made up of tribal college presidents: Carlos Cordero (Maya) of DQ University, David Gipp (Hunkpapa Lakota) of United Tribes Technical College, Gwen Hill of Sisseton Wahpeton Community College, Phyllis Howard (Hidatsa) of Fort Berthold Community College, Jasjit Minhas of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Peggy Nagel of Stone Child College, and myself.

Paul had a great experience prior to editing and writing for the journal. He had just completed writing the Carnegie Foundation’s report on tribal colleges, entitled Tribal Colleges: Shaping the Future of Native America. Paul’s father, Dr. Ernest Boyer, was president of the Carnegie Foundation. The former U.S. Commissioner of Education was held in high esteem by the higher education community, and his word carried a lot of weight. The report cited the quality education that was being provided by the tribal colleges, and listed some key recommendations to move them forward. It had a positive influence on the acceptance of the tribal colleges in the higher education community, the executive branch of the federal government, and in the U.S. Congress. Dr. Boyer, in his acknowledgements of the special report, wrote:

This report is primarily the work of Paul Boyer, instructor in journalism at California State University at Sacramento. He is the one who almost single-handedly designed the study, visited the campuses, and engaged tribal college presidents intimately in the project. His insights and sensitivity captured both the problems and the great potential of the tribal colleges while putting the work in historic perspective (Boyer, 1989).

It was this experience, and his insights and sensitivity to the tribal colleges, which made him such a successful editor and writer for TCJ.

For the next five years, Paul continued to publish four issues of the journal each year. In the summer of 1995, Paul edited his last copy of Tribal College Journal and turned the reins over to Marjane Ambler, who carried it on in a very effective way. In his final edition Paul wrote:

The journal began seven years ago with lofty ambitions. We hoped to bring national attention to the work of a remarkable group of institutions that had very little visibility. Although tribal colleges were bringing opportunity to long-neglected reservations, few knew of their existence.
We also wanted to describe the new spirit of hope that was taking shape within tribal communities. . . Through education, economic empowerment, and cultural reawakening, they were acknowledging the needs of their communities and offering solution to their own problems (Boyer, 1995).

He went on to credit the contributions of the financial benefactors: Christian A. Johnson Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Phillips Petroleum Foundation, and the Lannan Foundation. He added that both AIHEC and the American Indian College Fund provided essential support.

We, the tribal college community, owe a lot to the work of Paul Boyer in moving our institutions forward. And he hasn’t stopped writing in advocacy of the tribal colleges. He was the major author for the Carnegie Foundation’s follow-up report on the progress of the tribal colleges, Native American Colleges: Progress and Prospects, published in 1997. He has written several other publications and reports about tribal colleges, and he is presently writing a report for the National Science Foundation about the history of the tribal colleges.

Paul resides in Ithaca, New York, with his wife Hillary, his daughter Sophie, and his son, Mathew. His oldest son, Avery, is a student at St. Johns College in Annapolis, Maryland.

Joe McDonald, Ed.D., (Salish/Kootenai) is the founder and former president of Salish Kootenai College.


Boyer, E.L. (1989). Acknowledgements. In Tribal Colleges: Shaping the Future of Native America, pp. vii–ix. Princeton, New Jersey: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Boyer, P. (1995). Thinking About the Future. Tribal College: Journal of American Indian Higher Education, 7 (1), 4.

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