The Religious Roots of Ernest L. Boyer's Educational Vision: A Theology of Public Pietism

Document Type


Publication Date



The educational theories and policies promoted by Ernest L. Boyer (1928-1995), who served as chancellor of the SUNY system, U.S. Commissioner (Secretary) of Education, and president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, were significantly influenced by his affiliations with the Brethren in Christ Church and the Society of Friends (Quakers) even though he rarely spoke about his faith publicly. Drawing on Anabaptist, pietistic, and apophatic (silence-oriented) theological traditions, Boyer's public career demonstrated a service-focused convictional theology that could be termed "public pietism." Boyer's educational philosophy focused on human connectedness and called for all citizens to be active participants in improving their communities by living out nonsectarian "consensus virtues." While Boyer was a strong proponent of the separation of church and state, his public service was imbued with deeply held Christian values. © 2014 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.


Originally published as:

Jacobsen, D., & Jacobsen, R. H. (2014). The religious roots of ernest l. Boyer’s educational vision: A theology of public pietism. Christian Higher Education, 13(1), 17–28. https://doi.org/10.1080/15363759.2014.856648