Dan and Sue Boyce

A Parent's Perspective

Prescott College AffiliationSupporter
ProgramInstitute for Sustainable Social Change

What in your son Geoff’s life journey drew him to Prescott College?

DB: When he was in high school there was a program at his school called the Experiential Learning Center. The teacher who led the program got to know Geoff very well and told him during their Grand Canyon trip, “If you are ever thinking of going to college, you might consider Prescott College.” So he just tucked it away in his mind, and he really didn’t tell us anything about it then.

When he graduated from high school he didn’t want to go right into college, which was fine with us. He spent the fall semester working and by the middle of that semester he felt as though he was falling behind his peer group. He remembered what his high school teacher said, he looked into it, applied to Prescott College, and the first we heard about it was …

SB: “By the way, Mom and Dad, I’m going to college in January.”

DB: [Laughter] Yeah. He was always very bright, but he didn’t connect with the traditional academic setting. Of course we didn’t know it at the time, but experiential learning is his learning style, clearly.

SB: Well, and the social justice piece. We are Unitarian Universalists. That’s how he was raised. Our faith has a very strong social justice focus. So, that part of Prescott College really resonated with him also.

What were your first impressions of the College?

DB: What sticks with me was when we visited over Thanksgiving break. They had a potluck community Thanksgiving. Anybody who was around could come and we had a fantastic time. The students were unlike any undergrads I had ever met. I was very impressed.

SB: It was like the first Thanksgiving, because everybody came bringing Tofurkies and turkeys and pies and spread them out on a long table. At some colleges the fact that we were parents and were there would have been weird, but there was just no hierarchy, and it was such a wonderful experience. Very welcoming.

Is there a specific time when you thought, “Okay, this is a great place for my son”?

SB: Geoff wasn’t sure he had landed in the right place at first. Growing up in metropolitan Detroit he was used to having the arts at his disposal—going to the theater and having really wonderful music. In Prescott, one has to dig a little harder. But he ended up coming back for a second term and took a Cultural and Regional Studies course, which really ignited his passions.

Geoff’s social conscience often drew him to protests. By that second semester he was able to attend some protests and actually get credit for them, which was right up his alley. The school worked with him so that his passions and natural inclinations were encouraged and woven into the curriculum.

How did Geoff’s college experience compare with yours or your other children’s experiences?

DB: Both of Geoff’s brothers went to small liberal arts colleges. Each fit the two of them well, and there are some similarities with Prescott College—being small liberal arts.

SB: Yes. All of our children were much more engaged in the communities where their colleges were located than Dan and I were when we attended college.

DB: But neither of those other two colleges was experientially based or particularly social justice oriented. So, it was quite a different experience for Geoff.

As parents, what was the most meaningful part of Geoff’s education here?

SB: Watching him mature and develop a passion.

DB: Watching him catch fire and flourish.

SB: He had always been a passionate person, but he gained the tools to implement that passion and received validation for acting on it at Prescott College. I talk to him now and think that in some ways he is far more mature than I am. He is my hero. Geoff has been through some tremendously difficult things in his volunteer work. He has an ability to react to difficult situations objectively and thoughtfully. He is an incredible human being.

What is Geoff doing today?

SB: Geoff is ABD—all but dissertation—in his doctoral program in Political and Social Geography at the University of Arizona. He and his partner, Sarah, are involved with border research and action groups and teach there. He recently contributed a chapter about a little-known border enforcement program called Operation Streamline to a book focused on contemporary issues in Arizona.

DB: At Prescott College he gained perspective, tools, and the ability to effectively engage the world.

How and when were you asked to join the Board of Trustees here at the College?

DB: It was 2004. The cost of Geoff’s education at Prescott College was significantly less than it was for our two other children, so we decided to make a gift of the difference. The head of development invited us to meet the President when we came for Geoff’s graduation.

SB: We thought that was pretty special.

DB: We had breakfast with Dan Garvey and Steven Corey, and after some discussion, Dan said, “You guys really get Prescott College. Would either of you be interested in joining the Board?” I indicated my interest; and here we are a decade later. I’ve been Chair of the Board before and am currently serving as interim Chair.

Tell us about the Boyce Endowed Scholarship Fund.

DB: That was actually the outcome of the gift that we made when Geoff graduated. It’s a scholarship for a student in the Cultural and Regional Studies Program, with preference to minorities.

In addition to service on the Board and establishing a scholarship, you are part of the Charles Franklin Parker Legacy Society, and were the first donors to our 1966 Society. Why have you been so generous to us?

DB: It’s because of the difference the College has made in both Geoff’s and our lives. The connections we made through being on the Board are what ultimately influenced us to move to Prescott. It has been and remains an important part of our lives.

SB: It’s not the right place for every student, clearly, but there are so many students that probably fall through the cracks because they are in a college or university that just doesn’t fit them. We want to make sure that as many of those students find Prescott as possible.

DB: We generally prefer to direct our contributions to organizations where it can really make a difference. Sue and I are both University of Michigan graduates. We met there, and we could make the same donations there and it would only be a drop in the bucket. Here, what we give really makes a difference.

So you love this place so much you moved here?

SB: Yeah, in 2010. We had a condo for a couple of years prior to that because we wanted to stretch the times we were here for Board meetings longer and longer. Eventually I started spending the winter months here. January in Michigan versus January in Arizona [holds up hands as if weighing two options] … hmmm [laughs].

What were you doing in Michigan before the move and what keeps you busy here?

DB: I still have part ownership in a 20-person financial advisory business there; so I spend a week in Michigan every month. But while I was Chair of the Board, I got to know Dan Garvey very well. When he announced his retirement, he asked me if I wanted to work with him in building programs at an institute here connected with Prescott College, the Institute for Sustainable Social Change. That was the catalyst I needed to bring us out here. It was the right time, the right place, and the right “ask.”

There is a lot of questioning about the value of a liberal arts education in our society; do you feel a Prescott College education is worth the price in this day and age?

SB: I think it’s a bargain! A good liberal arts education enables a person to think, to discern, to be flexible, and that seems to be what the world needs now.

DB: Prescott College is very well positioned in the world of higher education right now, being totally infused with experiential education and individualized learning. That hands-on approach is where the added value is going to be in the future, not in memorizing content in a particular area. The large lecture halls that you find at state institutions may at some point be replaced by massive online open courses, but what you can’t get out of a lecture hall course or an online video is that experiential component and the critical thinking skills we teach so well here.

SB: The other part is the sense of community and responsibility for one another that students develop at Prescott College. Wilderness Orientation certainly goes a long way to foster that, but there’s also an expectation that students take responsibility for their own learning and for each other, and they very quickly assume that mantle. Community is an incredibly valuable learning tool.

DB: We just need to get the word out about the value proposition we at the College bring to the world. If we do that well, we have nothing to worry about.