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					Texas Historical Marker Application




                                                        Paul Lewis Boynton
                                                     President of SFASTC, 1942-1958


                                           CONTEXT

                                               As the students and faculty of Stephen F. Austin
                                           State Teachers College (SFA) returned to campus in
the fall of 1939 to begin the college’s seventeenth year, they faced an unsettled world; war had
already started in Europe. Locally, SFA appeared to be on the brink of a golden era. It had
survived the Depression, enrollments were up and spirits high. Behind the hoped-for normalcy,
however, the war dominated the headlines of the Pine Log, campus speeches, assembly
programs, new organizations, new courses, and civic involvements. President Alton Birdwell, a
historian, warned students about the cloudy future. The visit of track sensation and Olympic gold
medalist Jesse Owens helped the campus to become more aware of the Nazi menace in Europe.
At the homecoming in 1941, the prize-winning float mocked Adolf Hitler. The County Clerk set
up a Draft Board on campus in Aikman Gym. The football team was affected by the number of
young men who were drafted or enlisted. After Pearl Harbor, the swell of enlistments became a
flood. The national emergency instructions included a blackout drill on December 19. Some
young men left immediately for service; others joined reserve units allowing them to complete
their semester. The semester beginning in January included courses on defense, first aid,
accelerated degree plans, the expansion of physical fitness classes, and conservation. While
women had always outnumbered men at SFA, the difference between the two groups began to
rise dramatically to ninety percent during the war. The 1942 Stone Fort included the photograph
of the All-Girl Band. It was in this atmosphere, in the spring of 1942, that Board of Regents
named a new president for Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College.

    This marker is being requested to honor SFA’s second president – Dr. Paul Lewis Boynton.
He was president from 1942 to 1958. This is part of the university’s efforts to commemorate the
state’s emphasis on World War II. During his early tenure, Boynton kept the College from
closing and made substantive contributions to the way Texas responded to the war effort. During
his last decade, he demonstrated amazing resourcefulness and devotion to duty by laying the
foundations for SFA’s transformation from college to university status.
OVERVIEW

   Paul Lewis Boynton, born in Belton, Texas, July 24, 1898, was the son of Reverend Edwin
C. Boynton, a minister in the Christian Church; his mother Alice was a reference librarian. Paul
graduated from Belton High School and attended both Rice Institute and Texas Christian
University before completing his undergraduate education at Sam Houston State Teachers
College (BA, 1920). Before he left Texas to continue his education, he served as principal of
Lufkin High School in 1920-1921, and he taught and coached in the high school in Wichita Falls
in 1921-1922. At George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, he completed both his MA
(1923) and PhD (1927) in the field of psychology. After graduation, he joined the faculty in
psychology at Peabody; at the time he was named President of SFASTC, Boynton was chairman
of the Department of Psychology.

   Boynton’s presidency falls into two major parts: the first part–from 1942 through 1947–
defined by World War II and the impact of returning GIs; the second–from 1948 to 1958–
defined by catching up with growth, coping with the Korean War, and planning for future
growth.

   1942-1947. By the time the new president arrived on campus in May of 1942, enrollment
was collapsing. The college was about to face a period in its history as dire as the Depression.
Denying any “phenomenal remedies,” he did pledge his determination to have SFA “do its part
in training men for the armed forces and students for the maintenance of democracy…. our work
will conform to the national needs.” With the aid of outgoing President Alton Birdwell, Boynton
immediately decided to suspend intercollegiate football; this difficult decision was based on the
lack of men and money to field teams or pay for transportation and hotel expenses. The financial
crisis, however, was larger than expenditures on athletics. Emulating an action he had initiated at
Peabody, Boynton went to Washington to recruit a military installation for the campus to help
SFA survive the withdrawal of the male students. The result was the “WAAC Branch Number 1,
Army Administration School.” As the THC marker states, “by the time the school closed in
March 1944 about 3,000 women had trained here.”

   With every solution, however, come more problems. The large number of WAACs on
campus displaced almost every other program. The entire first floor of the Austin Building, the
first two floors of the Science Building, Gibbs and Wisely dormitories, the Music Building, and
the Women’s Recreation Center were all given over to the use of the army units. Boynton had to
find alternatives locations for the displaced programs. Additionally, he had trouble collecting the
money from the government and reported to the Board of Regents that the army school was
operated “at considerable cost to the school [SFA].” He had to have the Board tell the federal
authorities “that the school was glad to cooperate with the government in the WAAC or other
war program, but could not do so at a loss.” At the end of Boynton’s first year, in the summer of
1943, the largest number of men left for service. As a psychologist, he knew how to address the
guilt of those left behind; he charged them to stay in school to prepare themselves “for greater
usefulness.” The students responded by electing their first woman student body president.

   To cope with plummeting enrollments, Boynton created a new publicity group who put out
thousands of posters, billboards, postcards, and ads to keep SFA’s name before the public. Public
service programs on the radio helped with the war effort and kept the SFA name ever present in
areas like Shreveport, Beaumont, and Longview. Boynton led also in keeping in touch with all
the SFA men and women in the services. In 1943, when the war made superfluous some
buildings south of Nacogdoches owned by the Farm Security Administration, Boynton snapped
up the buildings to provide low-cost co-operative housing units for students and immediately got
busy planning to expand the programs at SFA. He secured a transfer of farm property to the US
Forest Service; this led to the formation of the Department of Forestry at SFA, which opened in
the fall of 1945.

   Boynton’s first three years were quietly productive in other areas, too. With no money and
few students, he concentrated on improving the organizational structure: he split the
administration into Junior and Senior Divisions; he provided a more comprehensive system of
student guidance; he added correspondence courses; and he established a curriculum committee
to review new courses, rationalize the curriculum, eliminate overlapping courses and provide
course descriptions in the catalogue. Boynton was particularly interested in increasing faculty
participation in the governance of the school. He established a large number of comprehensive
committees for the whole college.

   Boynton appealed to patrons through special events such as the impressive convocation held
in 1944 in which SFA conferred its first honorary degree. Col. W. B. Bates, a member of the
State Board of Regents, was a native of Nacogdoches. Bates was only the third Texan to receive
such a distinction. Boynton saw it as an opportunity to show what the college could do and of
gaining prestige before the Board of Regents, the public, and in the academic community
statewide. He was very aware that the entire Board and the President of Southern Methodist
University, Dr. Umphery Lee, would be in attendance SFA. He mandated attendance by the
faculty, in full academic regalia.

   When the “GI Bill of Rights” passed by Congress in 1944, thereby enabling veterans to
continue their education, Boynton immediately saw this as a new day for SFA. Anticipating that
these student would be more mature and less likely to put up with an academic structure that was
not modern or attentive to their needs, he immediately sent out questionnaires and explanatory
pamphlets to former students. He developed a master plan, lobbied the legislature to provide for
campus upgrades and expansions, which had been in budget requests from as early as the 1930s,
and purchased new property. His efforts greatly improved the campus infrastructure and
provided the first contour map showing possible future developments. He located and secured
government buildings for use as temporary veteran housing, classrooms, and office buildings. He
proposed a new student union building (SUB), but never got authorization to build it. Boynton
had to make do with another temporary building as the SUB and the same for new men’s
dormitories.

   In the Pine Log of 1947, Ed Gaston, a long time observer of SFA, wrote that the “Golden
Era” of SFA’s early history was coming to an end. Original leaders were retiring or dying, the
campus was expanding, and the student body and even the atmosphere on campus were rapidly
changing. The college even officially got a new name: “Stephen F. Austin State College.”
Actually, it was the decision by the Texas Supreme Court to uphold the validity of the ad
valorum tax as a support for education that was the catalyst for all this change.

   1948-1958. The second part of Boynton’s presidency started sometime around 1948.
Boynton now had a green light for more rational planning and the opportunity to implement his
master plan. The College’s celebration of its first twenty five years in 1948 was primarily about
the Birdwell years. But, President Boynton had carved out a place of honor for himself by saving
the college and confirming its importance to East Texas during the era of World War II.

   A summary look at the enrollments Boynton faced will give a clear indication of his
challenges. Between 1942 and 1945, he saw student head count fall from 793 to 253. As the war
ended, the numbers exploded: 1000 in 1946, 1244 in 1947, 1264 in 1948, 1538 in 1949, and
1706 in 1950. Then the Korean War depletion hit. In 1951, the enrollment dropped by 20% and
continued to drop until 1954 when these Korean War veterans returned to school. By the fall of
1958, enrollment was at an all time high of 2017 students. Boynton scrambled to supply
classrooms, teachers, and housing for these fluctuating numbers throughout his entire presidency.

   The Depression and World War II had left the faculty depleted, underpaid, and overworked.
And yet, the early faculty of SFA were remarkably loyal and dedicated. One of Boynton’s chief
goals in the 1950s was to upgrade the faculty. He sought professionally trained people with
advanced degrees, and he recruited the PhDs himself. “He interviewed every faculty member
himself in those days. He had definite ideas about what he wanted, and he worked to fill those
ideas,” observed Gaston, “and while Dr. Ralph Steen continued this push, the momentum was
well under way for a good while.” Boynton’s wife said he felt qualified faculty “in a frame
classroom would still be a lot more valuable than a million dollar building.” Boynton also placed
emphasis on the development of individuals. He returned to this theme over and over as the best
guarantee of a democracy–something dictatorships could not tolerate. In this second phase of his
presidency, he worked every semester to see that the faculty implemented a consistent,
systematic program of student guidance. He also insisted on teachers being prepared, and he
supported faculty when they wanted to further or supplement their education.

   According to Ed Gaston, “Dr. Boynton played the hand he was dealt pretty well. Dr. Boynton
had the misfortune, ultimately, of working for one of the worst Boards of Regents that ever came
out of Austin, or at least were appointed from Austin.” The State Board during this period tried
to micro-manage the school. They had very little vision and called most of Boynton’s requests
“luxuries.” They refused his request for a student center, called his dream for new dormitories
speculative, and rejected his call for an adequate auditorium or theater because it would not make
money. Through patient diplomacy, however, Boynton pressed forward with his vision. First, he
secured a new classroom building in 1954, then a new library in 1956, and eventually, he
received authorization for a new auditorium and home for the fine arts and saw the foundations
of this singular dream of his laid just before his death.

   The Boyntons moved into a new presidential home in 1958. The idea of a new house for the
first family had surfaced early in the 1930s and appeared in the first Ten Year Plan in 1939, but
the Depression and later the war got in the way. Dr. and Mrs. Boynton hosted their first big
student reception on the lawn of the new president’s house at the beginning of the summer term
in June of 1958, assisted by former first lady Mrs. Maude Birdwell and her daughter Mrs. Jethro
Meek of Indiana. On August 7, 1958, Dr. Paul Boynton suffered a heart attack in his office at the
college and died shortly afterward in Memorial Hospital. He was sixty years of age at the time
and had served as president of SFA sixteen years. Under Dr. Boynton’s leadership, the college
had enjoyed unparalleled growth. Just prior to his death, he had announced plans for another
classroom and office building for health instruction, an infirmary, a dormitory for men, another
for women, and a building for the college food service.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

   Paul Boynton, Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College’s second present, faced some of the
most difficult years in the college’s history. He arrived as the Second World War was getting
underway and immediately took charge of this difficult transition. He showed great leadership
during the war. By recruiting governmental subsidies in the form of an army training school for
office administrators and secretaries, he provided not only public service need by the war effort,
but he also saved the college from closing . His contact with service men and women during the
war helped to cement the loyalty of former students to the college. He carried his concern for the
veterans by preparing for their return to civilian life. He did this for veterans from both the
World War and the Korean Wars in most creative ways. His resourcefulness in moving and
renovating army surplus buildings is nothing short of Herculean. He served the State of Texas as
well as SFASTC in these things.

   Written by Dr. Jere Jackson
   Regents Professor of History

				
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