Letters to the Editor

Voice of the People - January 28, 2008

Speak softly but carry a big voice

To put a slightly new twist on an old adage, Jack Boger spoke softly, but carried a big voice. With Jack's death on Jan. 20, we will be missing his voice for humanity, teachers, poets, friends, community, church -- a long list of those for whom he cared and spoke. I first came to know Jack in one of those roles, that of an educator when he was dean of the School of Education at Winthrop University, and I was chairman of the English Department. Our first meeting had potential for being unfriendly and unproductive. Thanks to Jack, it was quite the opposite.

My dean (Arts and Sciences) and Jack were at odds (a mild understatement) about which departments should teach some writing courses for students in teacher training courses. As dean of Education, where the new teachers got much of their pedagogical training, Jack made a strong case for those courses to be taught in his realm. My dean had another view. As those negotiations unfolded, I came to know that Jack had been an English major and English teacher himself many years before moving into the administrative wing of professional education. Eventually, the university agreed that my department should teach those courses, but the wonderful outcome in those meetings was that both I and my dean came to know Jack Boger, a man whose life was devoted to compromise, understanding and serving others.

Fast forward to 20 years later when Jack has ended his career as a teacher/administrator, and I was on the cusp of ending mine, too. I was fortunate to direct an international Robert Frost conference, and Jack came out of retirement (more or less, since he never actually retired from teaching and talking about life and literature) to attend almost every session of that four-day gathering. A man in his late 70s by then, Jack attentively listened and talked with the scholars, attended the workshops, and when the time came, he stood in front of that group of international Frostians and recited from memory one of Frost's endearing poems.

During that meeting, I think I came to know the real Jack Boger: the lover of literature as it reflects life and as he lived life. I was fortunate not long after that event to have Jack as a teacher when I was in training to become a Stephen Minister at Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church, a place where Jack's compassion, teaching skills and soft voice were widely known and appreciated. In the past few years, Jack kept his dreams alive by returning to his own poetry writing (one of his many talents he had hidden from me and others) and by organizing a poetry club at Westminster Towers, where he lived the last few years with his effervescent wife, June. Jack and I exchanged poems regularly, met occasionally for chatting about each other's writing.

His soft voice, his winsome smile, his luminous mind will be with me forever. At the heart of Jack's understated voice was love such as that spoken of in the Frost poem that Jack cherished, "Birches." There Frost says, "Earth's the right place for love. I don't know where it's likely to go better." Everyone who was lucky to know Jack would surely affirm that, to paraphrase another line from "Birches," one could do worse than be a friend of Jack Boger's.

Earl J. Wilcox

Rock Hill

King Day parade is worthy tradition

Recently, I had the pleasure of serving as grand marshal for the Martin Luther King Parade in York. Quite apart from the opportunity to re-connect with old friends and colleagues, I was struck by the demonstration of dedication and commitment to service that the parade evoked.

Despite inclement weather, a significant cross-section of the community gathered to pay homage the man whose ideals yet embody the American Dream. It was a splendid event -- a tradition that I hope the Western York County Branch of the NAACP will continue -- for it represented a coming together of the community at a time of great political challenge in South Carolina. And for this, I am grateful. Because of it, I have hope for tomorrow.

Roberta Y. Wright

Washington, D.C.