A photo of William Walter “Bill” Boyer, Jr.

William Walter “Bill” Boyer, Jr.

December 10, 1923 - February 26, 2020

William Walter Boyer, Jr., known as Bill, passed away in his sleep at his home in Newark, Delaware on February 26, 2020, at age 96.

Bill was born on December 10, 1923—fittingly, International Human Rights Day—in Verona, Pennsylvania to William W. Boyer, Sr., a track supervisor for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Helen Rutledge Kelly Boyer, a vivacious storyteller and loving mother. Bill grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, where he enjoyed listening to the radio, playing basketball, dancing the jitterbug, and singing in school choirs. During the Great Depression, Bill worked as a paperboy and at odd jobs to help his family. Bill graduated from Crafton High School in 1941, in what would later be called the “war class.” Despite doubts from his high school principal about his academic future, Bill joined his older siblings Carle and Bethel at College of Wooster in Ohio where he studied political science and played varsity football.

A few months into his freshman year, Pearl Harbor was bombed, and Bill soon enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was called up for service in 1943 and served honorably as a meteorologist in Antigua and Cuba until his discharge in 1946. Soon after his service, he married his college sweetheart, Barbara Massey (d. 1987). He graduated from Wooster with his Bachelor’s in 1947. Bill went on to receive his PhD in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin in 1953.

During his academic career, Bill touched many lives as a college professor, department chair, academic researcher, and author. He held tenures at University of Pittsburgh (1954-1965) and Kansas State University (1965-1969) before being recruited to his beloved University of Delaware. As Charles P. Messick Professor at UD (1969-1993), he specialized in comparative public administration. After mandatory retirement at age 70, he was invited back to UD to continue research and writing. Later in his life, he became renowned as the oldest employee at UD, where, at the time of his death, he was working on books about Delaware’s criminal legal system and public health policy.

Throughout his long life, Bill fought for justice and equity, which over the years included speaking out against the Vietnam War, organizing a lecture series that featured Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, writing two books about the damage of colonialism in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and co-chairing a UD faculty committee which proposed divestment from South Africa as an apartheid state.

One of his career highlights came when the U.S. State Department sent him on a lecture tour across seven countries in 1960, where he spoke on such issues as democratization, public administration, and political rights. A three-time Fulbright Scholar, Bill dedicated much of his life to bringing peoples of the world together. Notably, he co-founded a partnership between UD and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea, where he had many esteemed graduate students, colleagues, and friends.

Bill leaves behind his beloved wife, Nancy E. Boyer, whom he married in 1988; his six wonderful children: Jeffrey Boyer (wife Sandra), David Boyer (wife Susan), Suzanne Boyer, Rebecca Boyer Slentz (husband Tom), Helen Boyer, and William (“Billy”) Boyer, III; his six grandchildren: Gretchen, Kelly, Andrew, Miles, Michael, and Charlie; his three great-grandchildren; many treasured nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews; his chosen family across the globe; and many neighbors, colleagues, and friends. He was predeceased by his parents; his first wife, Barbara; his siblings Carle, Bethel, and Jane; and many darling fur persons.

Services are pending for 2021.

Donations may be made in Bill’s memory to the William W. Boyer, Jr. Scholarship Fund to provide scholarship funds for students from Palestine, South Africa, and/or the U.S. Virgin Islands to study at UD. Checks with “William W. Boyer, Jr. Scholarship Fund” in the memo line can be made out and mailed to:

University of Delaware

Attn: William W. Boyer, Jr. Scholarship Fund

83 East Main Street, 3rd Floor

Newark, DE 19716

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8 Condolences for William Walter “Bill” Boyer, Jr.

  • Bill will always be remembered by the family comprising the Phoenix Community in Delaware. He was a voice of reason and compassion.

  • I first met Bill, during the Fall semester 1969 when he became the Political Science department chair at UD and I was a Senior undergrad in the same department. Speaking to him as I was also chair of the student government associations’ Vietnam moratorium committee, Dr. Boyer was very encouraging and helpful in organizing the three day “teach-in” at UD that October that stopped classes as usual. He led off the first session in Mitchell Hall with sharing his views on the war and encouraging all of us to do what we could to stop the tragedy. I remember he was so easy to talk with. I think of him often.

  • … always a pleasure to be around.

  • “Dad” Boyer was my college friend’s Dad. Becca and I were close and I spent a lot of time in Dad Boyer’s home while I was on college. He andchis first wife, Barbara or “Mom” Boyer were kind, warm and welcoming to this down state girl. They taught me about being a vegetarian. I was inspired and enamored with their home decirations from around the world. If you could see my own home, their taste in furnishings greatly impacted me. I cooked my first vegetarian meal at their house from the original Moosewood cookbook. Dad Boyer always had a smile and a warm invitation to join their family at dinner. My college experience and years living in Newark are intertwined with the Boyer family.

  • Dr. Boyer was one of my favorite professors at UD. I always looked forward to his classes.

  • I have so many wonderful memories of Dr. Boyer at UD. I first saw him when he gave his very moving and powerful lecture in Memorial Hall against the Vietnam War. As a young student, his views resonated with me and provided a much-needed, different perspective from the one we were hearing from the U.S. government. I will always remember the thunderous applause Dr. Boyer received from the audience. His effort in speaking out that night energized anti-war opposition on campus. Later, as a graduate student, I was fortunate to have Dr. Boyer as my faculty advisor. His guidance throughout this process and his challenging questions brought out the best in my research and writing. I consider myself lucky to have known and worked with Dr. Boyer during my time at UD.

  • Ben and I were absolutely thrilled that this “warm & fuzzy” dad to Helen & Billy was such a WORLD FAMOUS and special international person!! Our relationship had more to do with Bill & Nancy’s beautiful WEDDING (where their love for each other was so evident) and their beautiful little family – including fur babies! We totally enjoyed the Zoom memorial and were HUGELY impressed with Bill’s impact on the world around us! WOW! How special that we were invited to witness and hear it. (Ben – a Korean War participant – wishes now that he had talked more with Bill about Korea – instead of cocker spaniels! 🙂 ) I don’t think I have ever seen such an impact on children of ANY father as Bill has made on Helen and Billy. I’m sure his influence through them will continue to make the world a better place! Love to you all…

  • I was saddened to learn this week of Bill Boyer’s death and wish to send condolences to his family and friends. I met Bill in January 1966 when I interviewed for a position at Kansas State University. He was head of the K-State department of political science, 1965-1969. He not only shaped and built that department but was centrally involved in creation of the university’s South Asia Center and Landon Lecture Series on Public Issues. He is remembered fondly by friends and former colleagues here.