Boerner Helps Community In Multiple Ways


July 26, 2018

Courtesy photo

Barbara Boerner models a custom hat she made for use during a United Way of Transylvania County board meeting last year. Fellow board members and staff make sure it gets all the attention it deserves.

In January, former Brevard College professor Dr. Barbara Boerner will rotate off the board of the local United Way, her volunteer work having earned her a well-deserved 2018 Governor's Volunteer Service Award from the North Carolina Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service

In May, Boerner was selected as one of the state's Top 20 Outstanding Volunteers.

"I was very surprised and probably quiet for once," said Boerner. "I really was overwhelmed because it was a special recognition and did not only come from people that I have worked with over a long period of time."

Boerner was recognized for her dedication to the community through support of United Way of Transylvania County, St. Philip's Church and Transylvania Vocational Services.

"My work with the United Way has been really important to me and it's been a real privilege because you get insight into a community that you would not get any other way," Boerner said.

She said she had little experience with the United Way before moving to Brevard.

"I didn't like United Way," Boerner said. "But what struck me was all the effort that was being put in to create a grant to an agency."

CEO Steve Pulliam of United Way of Transylvania County said, "Barbara Boerner is a tireless and tenacious volunteer. Her skills and scope have been invaluable resources to United Way of Transylvania County for the past 10 years. Our organization has definitely benefitted from the way she keeps both eyes focused on United Way. She has a distant eye for big concepts and processes, and a near eye for details in the here and now."

When Boerner began working with United Way in Transylvania County, she looked beyond the United Way to the executive directors of other agencies.

She saw that there was a way to collaborate for the betterment of the community and social change.

Working with St. Philip's also allowed Boerner to see the duplication in the needs of the community.

"We, for years, have been working to bring collaboration among the agencies, and now the United Way has declared to agencies that they will not be eligible if they do not collaborate," Boerner said. "That then led us to focus on one major issue rather than many small issues."

Currently, United Way's major focus is on early childhood education.

"Along with SmartStart, we have collaborated, we are now going after larger grants that can really bring about social change," Boerner said.

Her community service work started long before her move to Brevard. Boerner was involved in Leadership Rhode Island and was also the headmistress of Lincoln School in Providence, R.I.

"I encouraged all kinds of volunteer work, and I was instrumental in integrating the school," she said.

Boerner became motivated to get involved with issues that affect a community's quality of life after growing up with parents who immigrated to the United States. Her mother was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, present day Slovakia, and she moved to the U.S. at age 16.

"My mother would say, 'oh, look forward, always look forward.' And it seems to me that the whole kind of pioneer thought, you never look back, you always look ahead, and I was raised in that atmosphere and so I guess that's how I got my motivation to get involved with people," Boerner said.

She was also in high school when desegregation became legal and Boerner's college class at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro was the first class to admit women of color. She became involved in sit-ins and other social movements while in Greensboro.

Boerner originally moved to Brevard to retire in 1992. She was interested in pursuing water color classes and wanted to get a real estate license.

"One of the things I wanted to do when I retired the first time was to work at an hourly job because I had never done that," Boerner said. "I wanted to understand economics from the vantage point of the underprivileged."

Boerner worked at Winn-Dixie, currently Sav-Mor, in the deli area before being promoted to the office.

"You get to see the whole gamut of the community in a grocery store and so it was really kind of interesting, very interesting," Boerner said. "I really got to know people well."

She worked at Winn-Dixie for almost a year before becoming connected with Brevard College with the assistance of her Catahoula/Labrador dog named Swizzle.

The college was offering dog obedience lessons taught by music Professor Ruth Still.

"Ruth and I got to know each other, and she told me I should get to know the college and meet the president, who was Tom Bertrand," Boerner said.

Over the course of 21 years, Boerner worked at BC as an associate professor of Business and Organizational Leadership, coordinator of Business and Organizational Leadership Major Program, and Chair, Division of Social Sciences and Professor of Business and Organizational Leadership.

Brevard College President David Joyce said, "Dr. Boerner was certainly 'a force to be reckoned with' at Brevard College. She was engaged with her students on so many different levels. As a faculty member and master teacher, she made students her number one priority inside and outside of the classroom."

When she retired from BC this spring, Boerner could claim an impressive total of 55 years of teaching experience.

Brevard College 2016 graduate Spencer Lowden said, "Without a doubt, Dr. Boerner provided me with the tools and connections and is the main reason I am on my current career path. Without her, I would not have had opportunities I have been given and I truly have no idea where I would be today if she hadn't been willing to invest in me and my personal growth."

Lowden is now working as a business analyst at Mission Health in Asheville after having interned there. And yes, his internship was arranged by none other than Boerner.

Along with her dedication to teaching, Boerner has long been a passionate traveler as well.

After looking into making travel plans a year ago, Boerner decided it was time to retire yet again.

"It is a funny story," said Boerner. "I love to travel, and I have done a lot of it and have been to China once before."

The trip that Boerner wanted to take would not be available until later in 2018.

"It was a sign or something," said Boerner. "I made the (travel) arrangements and told the dean in August of last year that I was going to retire. It was so fun to say."

Never say never, and Boerner added that she might be back at the college teaching classes in the next spring semester.

Boerner will soon leave for an exotic trip to Mongolia. Her month-long journey will begin in China before heading to Mongolia, the Gobi Desert and to an island in Lake Baikal in remote Siberia.

Boerner is a seasoned traveler. She has driven from New England across Canada to Alaska and across Sweden and the length of Norway. Explorations of India, Australia and New Zealand are at the top of the list of her favorite places.

"Another trip I loved was with a group from the St. Philip's Church to Namibia in southwest Africa," Boerner said. "We got to spend time with members of a church there and we gave them the gift of a van."

There are still places to see on her list.

"I would like to see the Komodo dragons, there are some places in South America, and I have never seen Brazil," said Boerner. "The one U.S. state I have never been in is New Mexico, so, I gotta go there."

Even with all the places left to see, she has no plan to decrease her volunteering when she returns from her latest adventure.

"If the United Way needs me, I'll be happy to do something for them," Boerner said. "If my example of combining work and adventure travel causes other people to question their own barriers that they have set up, then I really do feel that I've accomplished something."

(Welch is a rising senior at Brevard College.)


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