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Robert Paul Boynton

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 April 2006

Robert E. Cleary
Affiliation:
American University
Deil S. Wright
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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Extract

Robert Paul Boynton (universally known as Bob) died of cancer on November 4, 2005, at age 78. Bob was a collegial colleague, constructive collaborator, compassionate confidante, and consummate cosmopolitan. These alliterative categories attempt to capture the primary qualities of Bob's 50 years of scholarly public life. The designations, however, fall woefully short of encompassing what he contributed to numerous university, association, community, national, and international settings. In those contexts his personal, intellectual, and humane character and skills stimulated good will as well as good learning.

Type
IN MEMORIAM
Copyright
© 2006 The American Political Science Association

Robert Paul Boynton (universally known as Bob) died of cancer on November 4, 2005, at age 78. Bob was a collegial colleague, constructive collaborator, compassionate confidante, and consummate cosmopolitan. These alliterative categories attempt to capture the primary qualities of Bob's 50 years of scholarly public life. The designations, however, fall woefully short of encompassing what he contributed to numerous university, association, community, national, and international settings. In those contexts his personal, intellectual, and humane character and skills stimulated good will as well as good learning.

In more conventional categories Bob could be identified as an outstanding teacher, researcher, administrator, consultant, traveler, and seaman first class (more on this later). He grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and after a brief hitch in the Navy, he attended nearby Calvin College on the GI Bill. Following his B.A. degree Bob entered graduate school at the University of Michigan in 1949 during the early roots and heady days of the behavioral revolution in political science. After completion of his dissertation on Santayana (A Poetic Approach to Politics) he taught briefly at Wells College (1954–1957) before returning to the Midwest to teach at the University of Iowa (1957–1969).

Bob's disciplinary interests in political theory and philosophy did not make him hostile to new and constructive developments in the discipline generally and to subfields beyond theory. He was neither a stranger to nor an opponent of quantitative approaches in political science and public administration. From Ferrel Heady at Michigan he developed a career-long interest in comparative and development administration. Public administration became his adopted field and it drew him along pathways smoothed by the footsteps of Dwight Waldo and others.

Bob joined the American University faculty in 1969 to direct the public administration program in what was then the School of Government and Public Administration. A thinker and a philosopher of education, he quickly proved as well to be a program organizer, an innovator, and a supporter of strong practitioner-academic relationships. His organizational skills were quickly recognized when he was tapped to serve as dean of Graduate Studies and Research (1970–1974). As graduate dean he quickly determined that the office did not need to exist. In a strong move toward the decentralization of academic decision-making he secured the abolition of the graduate deanship and the devolution of its duties and responsibilities to the university's schools and colleges.

During this period, Bob also served as a de facto assistant vice-president for academic affairs, consulting with the vice president and the provost on faculty personnel matters, academic budget, and academic planning and development. He subsequently served in several formal administrative roles, including director of the Public Administration Program, director of the Center for Urban Policy Analysis, director (for 10 years) of the Center for Technology and Administration, and chair of the Department of Public Administration. He moved to “retirement” status in 1995 but continued teaching and was serving as interim chair of the Public Administration Department when a recurrence of cancer overtook him.

Bob's talents as a teacher as well as an administrator at American were widely recognized. Prominent among his teaching subjects were courses on Comparative Administrative Systems, Administration of International Programs, Organization Theory and Behavior, and Nonprofit Sector Management. A popular and personable professor, his courses were especially attractive to international students from developing countries. In addition to diverse course offerings he chaired 24 doctoral dissertations including some that received national awards.

Bob's international consulting and advisory responsibilities were extensive for the World Bank, the United Nations, USAID, and the Institute of Public Administration (New York). These roles took him to Indonesia, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine. His domestic consulting roles were likewise diverse and included the following federal agencies: Agriculture, Labor, Transportation, Office of Personnel Management, and Federal Railroad Administration. He also served as a frequent lecturer for the following organizations: Federal Executive Institute, Federal Executive Seminar Centers, Presidential Management Internship Program, International City/County Management Association, Council of State Governments, Institute of Social Studies (the Hague, Netherlands), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bob's knowledge and experience in higher education called on him to serve in numerous and varied capacities. Representative of these were: Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Program, Muskie Scholars Program, Humphrey Fellowship Program, President of Pi Alpha Alpha National Honorary Society, the National Association of Public Affairs and Administration, and Public Administration Fellows Selection Committee.

Bob was a published scholar with articles appearing in the Journal of Politics, Journalism Quarterly, Municipal Yearbook, Public Administration Review, and Public Management. He was a member of the American Political Science Association, American Society of Public Administration, Midwest Political Science Association, and Southern Political Science Association.

He is survived by his wife, Dolores Boynton of Rockville, MD, daughter Carla of Milton, DE, two brothers, a sister, and several nieces and nephews. In recognition of his distinguished service at American University the Robert P. Boynton scholar award has been established at the School of Public Affairs. Contributions may be made to: Robert P. Boynton Award, School of Public Affairs, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20016.

At his memorial service held last December in Washington, D.C., Bob's connections with poetry and seamanship were celebrated with final lines from Tennyson's poem, “Crossing the Bar.”

For though from out our borne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crost the bar.

Bob so successfully navigated this side of the bar that he has surely met his Pilot safely on the other side.

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