“Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne; knowing him was like drinking it.” So said Sir Winston Churchill about his close friend and World War II ally after the president’s death, in April 1945.
John Boyer and I weren’t moving armies and navies around the Western world, leading nations or sampling the bubbly, but Churchill’s assessment came to mind when I learned of Mr. Boyer’s death in early September of this year. John was a long-time personal friend and a pillar in the Eastern University community. A beloved Trustee, he was a respected member of the Board’s Finance and Property Committee and a close adviser to four presidents stretching back more than three decades. In his later years, he served as an Emeritus Trustee.
I knew Mr. Boyer most closely as a fellow elder of Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He taught me a number of the ropes back in the early 1990s, and we hit it off right away. His governance responsibilities at Eastern, particularly his finance experience, added a special dimension to our relationship.
Many people knew John possessed significant personal leadership qualities. In a 2006 article in the Philadelphia Business Journal, current Trustee Tom Petro said Mr. Boyer had been a mentor to him.
Mr. Boyer’s academic experience prepared him well for service on Eastern University’s Board of Trustees. A graduate of Wilmington Friends School in Del. and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, he completed courses of study at Rutgers University’s School of Banking before taking on the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school. In each venue, Mr. Boyer excelled thanks to his native ability and hard work.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia was Mr. Boyer’s first job in the world of finance and economics. It was a fitting tribute to his father, who was also a banker. In 1958, Mr. Boyer became an officer of what was then Provident Tradesmen’s Bank and Trust Company. These positions were solid stepping stones on his way to what became the longest, most visible part of his business career. The Philadelphia Suburban Water Company saw Mr. Boyer rise to President and Chairman & Chief Executive Officer. Subsequently, this company became a jewel in the corporate crown of what is now Aqua Pennsylvania.
Mr. Boyer’s diverse experiences and resulting expertise made him stand out as a desirable director for organizations in the for-profit sector. Germantown Savings Bank, Haverford Trust Company, Salient 3 Communications, Betz Dearborn and Rittenhouse Trust Company were among those companies that were fortunate to have his governance, counsel and wisdom.
John was a committed evangelical Christian. Arthur DeMoss, founder of Liberty Insurance Company, was instrumental in bringing him to faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. John had an increasingly close relationship with the Lord thereafter and took great delight and comfort when members of his family made their own decisions for Christ.
Possessing and nurturing a strong heart for evangelism, Mr. Boyer was a founding elder of Proclamation Presbyterian Church, and he was a driving force for many years behind the annual Valley Forge Leadership Prayer Breakfast. In addition, he had a close relationship with nearby Westminster Theological Seminary.
Students may not know who the University’s Trustees are or what they do for the school. Mr. Boyer was a neighbor for many years, but his closeness to Eastern was a lot more than geographical. During his heyday, he walked the St. Davids campus frequently and enjoyed meeting students, faculty and administrators.
Mr. Boyer’s death is a great loss to Eastern. Members of Eastern’s community will remember John for his strong affection, warm sense of humor and indefatigable efforts over many years to improve Eastern for the benefit of our students. Those of us who knew John have been quick to extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and all those blessed by his extraordinary life of faith in our Lord and service to men and women near and far.