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.

A gathering for family and friends will be held from 9 am to 10 am on Friday, October 16, 2020, at Mitchell Hall, University of Delaware, 210 S. College Avenue, Newark, DE, where a Celebration of Life will follow at 10 am. A reception will follow at Roselle Center for the Arts with foods from countries especially close to Bill’s heart. Parking will be located at the covered lot by Roselle Center for the Arts, with handicapped parking available by both Mitchell Hall and the Roselle Center.

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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2 Guestbook messages 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.