This year’s Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Gala, which will be held Saturday, November 13, at the Trenton Marriott at Lafayette Yard, will honor James Boatwright, who retired this summer after directing TCNJ’s EOF Program for nearly a quarter-century.
Boatwright’s leadership helped transform an already successful EOF Program into one of the top programs in the state. Since his arrival on campus in 1986, program retention and graduation rates have tripled, and more than 1,200 students have received diplomas through EOF and its subprogram, Plus-Twenty.
One of the major factors in the increased retention rates has been the EOF Promise Award, which provides scholarships that bridge the gap between all direct and indirect costs of a TCNJ education. Boatwright was a driving force behind that initiative’s development.
It was also under Boatwright’s leadership that, in 2004, TCNJ’s program received the Innovative Program Initiative Award from the New Jersey EOF Program Professional Association.
Though Boatwright’s tenure was marked by decreased state funding to EOF, he worked tirelessly to ensure students received the highest-quality support services. A prime example is his work on behalf of the EOF Summer Program, a retention initiative that helps incoming students address academic skills deficiencies. Reduced funding necessitated cuts to the program, yet Boatwright’s efforts ensured the program’s academic integrity was maintained. One result is that for the last 12 years participants have been able to earn college credits through the program.
“I had the benefit of having a great staff working with me, and it was truly a team effort in what was accomplished during my years here,” Boatwright said earlier this summer. “The EOF program has diversified the College campus both ethnically and economically,” he explained, adding that it also “gave many deserving students the chance to earn a College diploma who might not otherwise had had such an opportunity.”
“The achievements that I value most were seeing those students earn their bachelor’s and advanced degrees after being told by folks in authority that they were not college material,” said Boatwright.
Stacy Holland ’92, a one-time EOF student, former chair of TCNJ’s Board of Trustees, and the current co-president and chief operating officer of Philadelphia Youth Network, best summed up Boatwright’s legacy:
“The strength of James Boatwright’s professional and personal beliefs are evidenced by the long line of lives that have been transformed due to his influence and unconditional dedication. He has been a silent hero in so many lives, especially mine, that his legacy will affect many generations beyond the lives of his students. For many of us, he became the voice in our heads that encouraged us, dreamed for us, and challenged us to achieve all that seemed to be impossible. He was the visionary for each of his students, consistently and with steadfast determination. He was committed to seeing every one of us succeed. This is a rare gift, and I am truly grateful that I was one of many objectives of his focus. He is truly my hero, mentor, and inspiration.”
Alumni, colleagues, and friends who wish to honor Boatwright for his longstanding commitment and service to thousands of students can help ensure his legacy lives on after his retirement by purchasing tickets or ads for the EOF Gala’s keepsake program. A portion of all gala tickets, as well as proceeds from the keepsake program, will be used toward establishing a Jim Boatwright Scholar in future EOF classes.