When Professor of English Gordon Boudreau, Ph.D., retired in 1993, alumna Ann Ryan ’85, Ph.D., was hired to succeed him. It was, Ryan recalls, “an impossible task.” Over the course of three decades at Le Moyne, Boudreau had earned a reputation as a meticulously prepared teacher, gifted scholar and trusted colleague. To this day he is passionate about the written word, particularly the work of author and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, whom he has studied extensively. Nearly 30 years have passed since Boudreau left the Heights, but his impact on the campus continues to resonate. Today when Ryan teaches Thoreau to her own students, she uses Boudreau’s book, The Roots of Walden and the Tree of Life.
“Over the years, I’ve thought of Gordon and his kindness, his decency, and his appreciation for what's immediate and real,” said Ryan, who regularly brings her students to Walden Pond in Concord, Mass., so they can see the place that so inspired Thoreau for themselves. “I may never live up to his legacy at Le Moyne, but it's been a privilege trying to do so.”
Boudreau taught his students that writing is central to social, cultural and professional life – that if they could learn to think and write, they could do anything. This fall the College announced the establishment of a fund in his name that will enrich his legacy by supporting monetary prizes for outstanding writing by first-year students and financial awards to aid faculty members in pursuit of scholarly work. The Gordon Boudreau Fund reframes writing as both a fundamental competency and an art. It will be used to encourage students to view writing as a craft with the capacity to move and inspire – and to help faculty members deepen their understanding of literature, writing and film. In short, it will enrich the academic experience for all.
“Gordon Boudreau himself gave the example,” said Maura Brady, Ph.D., associate professor of English and department chair. “As a scholar of American literature, he made significant contributions to the field and then took his knowledge and passion straight into the classroom at Le Moyne. I see that all the time in my colleagues’ work. It's like a fountain that overflows.”
The fund was made possible by a generous gift from Boudreau’s family, including son Vincent Boudreau ’84, Ph.D., daughter Maura Kennedy, and other loved ones. Vincent Boudreau first came to know Le Moyne as a child, riding his sled down the hills on campus and drinking hot chocolate from a vending machine in the administration building. He took in the smell of “books, and chalk, worn wood and deep thoughts” in the College’s classrooms. Later, as a student at Le Moyne, Vincent Boudreau found his place in the world, learned to write, and came to understand it means to rework an idea until it has been fully polished. His teachers included his father, who pushed his students “to be clear and concise on the page – but after we’d achieved clarity, he also asked us to think about the rhythm of words, and their feel in the mouth.” Appropriately, the last class Vincent Boudreau took at the College, American Transcendentalists, was taught by his father, who was waiting for him at the bottom of the stage after he accepted his degree at Commencement.
Vincent Boudreau has also dedicated his professional life to higher education. As the president of The City College of New York, he understands how important it is that people who have benefitted from a college work to make sure that the institution, and the students it serves, are as supported as possible.
“Le Moyne utterly shaped my family – from our youngest years, we strained to see the outline of the college against the sky when the family drove the highways in the valley,” he said. “We learned about the College, and literature, and my father’s work, around the dinner table. But most importantly, we each knew, growing up, that there was a place for us in a college somewhere – in Le Moyne or someplace else; in our middle-to-working class neighborhood, that wasn’t an expectation that everyone shared. We were the kids whose father was a professor, and that was a fine and elevated thing. The presence of Le Moyne College in our lives, and as it was reflected in our parents’ raising of their seven kids, made that possible.”
The Gordon Boudreau Fund is part of the $100 million Always Forward campaign, which was publicly announced in June of 2018.