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“Study in Your Course of Life to Do the Greatest Amount of Good”

“Study in Your Course of Life to Do the Greatest Amount of Good”

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June 15th marked the second anniversary of my father’s death. A week or so after his funeral, I posted a tribute to him, entitled Wallace Boston Sr – the legacy of a life well lived.

In that article, I quoted one of my father’s favorite statements to his four children: “It doesn’t matter to me what you do when you grow up, as long as you do your job better than anyone else.” If you didn’t know my dad, you could take that statement as another father trying to keep his children in line. But it was more than that. My father was a mechanic, who took pride in his work. Fix it right once, and you didn’t have to fix it again.

My dad also believed in the power of education combined with the power of common sense. He wanted all four of his children to have a better life than he did, and he strongly encouraged us to earn a four-year degree, something that he didn’t have the chance to do. All of us earned a bachelor’s degree or more.

School was always easy for me. When my public elementary school recommended that I “skip” fourth grade, my parents went along with the recommendation, but my father was concerned about the impact on my social and athletic life. Because of those socialization concerns, my father and mother convinced me to apply for a scholarship offered by a boarding school in Baltimore. McDonogh School offered me a scholarship to attend, and it made a substantial difference in my life.

I’ve written a few posts about McDonogh over the years including a recent one about planning to attend my 50-year reunion. In that article, I mentioned a few lines of a poem written by a member of the class of 1879:

Our trademark is woven into every suit,

‘Tis a vow that each wearer must make

How low or how high in the world he may be

“We give something more than we take.”

I think the genesis for that part of the poem came from the school’s founder, John McDonogh, who penned his personal “Rules for Living” in 1804 when he was 24 years old. One of those rules, “Study in your course of life to do the greatest amount of good” was probably the foundation for the poem’s line “we give something more than we take.”

Fast forward 218 years, and the world is a different place and on a different pace. We’re inundated with information thanks to the advent of the internet. It’s clear that having the ability to discern the differences between facts and lies is important since there are many more sources of information than any one individual can verify. Unfortunately, some of those publishing lies (on both sides of the political spectrum) have clever ways of hiding that from others. Education is more important than ever, and life-long learning is obviously a requirement for those who want to thrive versus survive.

My father’s statement about doing your job better than anyone else would support life-long learning, whether the learning was through classes, books, or experiences. I look back at my career and that advice was spot on for what I’ve done and what I hope to do in the future.

Over the past year, I’ve spent a great deal of time meeting with a variety of non-profit leaders, listening to their challenges and listening to what they would like to do to make a difference. Many of the volunteers, employees, and benefactors of these organizations follow the “we give something more than we take” mantra that I have found so helpful over the years. Non-profits are often more nimble and more responsive to current issues in their communities than the federal and state government agencies with similar responsibilities. When we have a system where non-profits, for-profit entities, and the government are aligned, we can accomplish much more than we can when they are not aligned.

Technology is fueling the increasing pace of change. I hear people expressing frustration about what’s happening (or not) in their communities. Technology has disrupted many industries, notably the newspaper industry. It’s in the process of disrupting education, K-20 and beyond. As leaders (executives, board members, faculty, and investors) make decisions about how to improve education outcomes for students, I hope all of us consider the importance of “doing the greatest possible amount of good” as we consider implementing changes. Faster doesn’t always align with better or best and neither does cheaper. When in doubt, doing the greatest good is best.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity by the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2019. He also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), as a Trustee of The American College of Financial Services, as a member of the board of Our Community Salutes - USA, and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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