Edward G. ‘Ned’ Boehm Jr., was memorialized Saturday morning at Keystone College, by a broad swath of individuals whose lives were clearly touched by him during his 18-year tenure (1995-2013) as president.
In welcoming remarks, current KC President Tracy Brundage said that although she didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him, his imprint is unmistakable as you walk the campus.
“He came here when times were tough,” she said, but boldly pushed a vision such that within three years the college received formal approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to begin offering baccalaureate degree programs.
“He was full of optimism, and wanted to know the students not just by their names, but also their dreams,” she said. “That philosophy continues.”
Monsignor Joseph Quinn called Boehm “an extraordinary man and remarkable leader who was never able to wear a suit without an orange or blue tie.”
After some gentle laughter, he asked those in a packed Hibbard Campus Center to stand for a moment and look at a scrolling run of old photos projected in front of them and to think of a man who gave so much of his life to the place.
“I think it would be appropriate to stand and offer your applause,” he smiled, and the gesture paved the way for a sustained standing ovation.
Lamont Carolina, a 2007 graduate, said there were moments he wasn’t sure he should go to college but when he got his acceptance letter in the mail with brand new college t-shirt, he was determined to check it out.
He saw Boehm as a consummate professional who “was like a magnet that could suck you into its own orbit, and create opportunities you couldn’t quite see yourself.”
Carolina recalled when President George Bush visited the campus in 2006, Boehm asked him to be part of a welcoming committee, which he initially balked at, but then gave in. He recalled Saturday, that the gesture emboldened him to see all sorts of possibilities and a year after graduation he went to work for Barack Obama’s campaign.
Retired art professor Bill Tersteeg said he had served under six Keystone presidents, but “Ned was the only won who had visited his classes more than once. There was a sense of what you did, however big or small, mattered.”
Tersteeg, who said he was known for sneaking a little time out for trout fishing, remembered that one of the happiest moments he remembered Boehm having was when the college appeared in the State Fish and Boat Commission annual guide with a catch-and-release stream going right through the Keystone College campus.
“Ned has a special place in my heart,” he said.
Letha Rineheimer said she was on the search committee that brought him to campus back in 1995, and “When things were down, he brought a real sense of hope.”
Marty Markowitz was chair of the trustees at the time and remembered that Keystone Junior College with 400 students “was in big trouble. One option was to turn out the lights and lock up the door. That’s how bad it was. I offered him the job expecting him not to take it, but he did.”
“He was calm and deliberating, and drew a lot of ‘what ifs’ from others. He never sought personal glory, but cherished loyalty and friendship and loved the truth,” Markowitz said. “And from the day he arrived he was never fearful. A lot of us were, but not Ned.”
Betty Turock, class of 1953, said that Boehm had approached her 15 years ago and asked her to serve on an advisory council. “I resisted. But Ned had this great persuasive streak that was unstoppable. He had this sense of mission that made you feel you had to be a part.”
Her son, David Turock, class of 1977, and an accomplished entrepreneur, told those assembled that he remembered Boehm approaching him a decade ago to do something that might him show the school’s environmental conscience. Turock had donated an all-electric car in 2009 and two years later became part of a course called Climate Change and the Energy Challenge, a program to help teachers make sense of the ever-growing minutia related to carbon footprinting and global warming.
“That was big stuff then and even more so now,” he said, noting Boehm “Mr. Keystone,” wanted students to see success, and then imagine themselves in it.
Former athletic director Terry Wise said she signed onto Keystone within six weeks of Boehm.
She remembered his attendance at a women’s soccer game, when Boehm was not happy with the officiating, and energetically let them know.
The official called her over and said, “I don’t know whose father that is, but you need to get a leash on him.”
“You don’t understand,” Wise interjected, “That’s not a player’s father, that’s the school’s president.”
The official said, “You still need to get him leashed.”
“He was fun to work with. He got it,” she said. “Thanks Ned.”
Former Keystone First Lady Regina Boehm offered closing remarks, thanking President Brundage for having the service and allowing people to recall the good memories.
She said she had recently been through some long unopened boxes, and it was good to reflect on the past.
“He accomplished what he wanted - to become president of a college - and he loved it,” she said. “I wish the college much success and God bless you all.”
In his benediction, Monsignor Quinn said he wanted to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 19th Century definition of success to add an exclamation point to Boehm’s life: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”
“Let us thank God for this extraordinarily successful man,” Quinn said.