PITTSBURG — Pittsburg High School alumni remember walking down the 600 hall to Robert Boyer’s graphic design, drafting and construction classes, ready to take on the next project.
Boyer died on Dec.13, in rural Crawford County. He began his teaching career at the Youth Center at Topeka and then at Pittsburg High School for 29 years.
His students — who knew him as Mr. Boyer — remember him as a humorous and caring teacher who helped guide students to success.
Tori Bastion graduated last week from Pittsburg State University with a bachelor’s degree in graphic communication and minor in graphic design. On her cap read, “This one’s for you Mr. B.”
“If he hadn’t cultivated my passion I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said.
Boyer’s class also sparked Casey McCafferty’s interest in graphic design. McCafferty, a recent PSU graduate, who studied graphic design and now works as a public relations and marketing coordinator for the Colonial Fox Theater Foundation.
“I would have not even known about graphic design and Photoshop if it weren’t for his class,” he said. “I loved it so much, he made me want to go into this field.”
PHS and PSU graduate Brianna Maxwell also gave thanks to Boyer for his encouragement to move forward in construction. Maxwell now works as a project engineer for Crossland Construction doing what she loves, she said.
“He was a great teacher,” Maxwell said. “He’s probably the main reason why I started in construction … he taught me so much, and pushed me into construction even though I am a woman. That didn’t matter to him.”
McCafferty said Boyer’s class was unique because after completion of their assignments students could create whatever came to mind.
To Tori Bastion, Boyer’s class was like a sanctuary — as high school was not enjoyable for her, she said.
In her freshman year in 2009, Bastion took one of Boyer’s classes, Introduction to Graphics. It wasn’t her first time meeting him, however, because her mother worked at the school.
Susan Bastion, who was then a construction technology teacher, said Boyer was also her mentor when she was a new teacher at PHS.
Through Tori Bastion’s high school career Boyer was not only her teacher, but her advisor for SkillsUSA, an organization which encourages a skilled workforce in the United States through its programs and competitions.
“I’m the first freshman in Kansas to medal in photography under his mentorship,” Tori Bastion said.
McCafferty said Boyer also encouraged him compete in SkillsUSA — something Boyer pressed all his students to do.
“Everyone — to speeches, to drafting, to mechanical engineering designs and graphic design,” McCafferty said.
Tori Bastion said she didn’t want to compete at first, but he gave her the courage to give it a shot. By her junior year she qualified for SkillsUSA nationals, an accomplishment Susan Bastion said her daughter felt she owed to Boyer.
“Mr. Boyer was able to foster her passion and showed you can have a career in something you are passionate about,” Susan Bastion said.
Tori Bastion said Boyer didn’t put up with students’ attitudes and the students respected him for that.
“He was blunt and to the point without coming off as arrogant,” Tori Bastion said.
Susan Bastion said Mr. Boyer had a unique sense of humor.
“It was a little dry, but you either got it or you didn’t,” she said.
His humor and practical jokes made a fun and relaxed environment, while maintaining a conducive to learning environment.
Tori Bastion said one of his famous quotes — or what the students call “Boyerisms” was “High Five yourself — no friends,” he’d say as he clapped his hands over his head.
McCafferty said the students were required to call him “Mr. Boyer” — and by no other name in class — and one day a student decided to call him “Dude.”
“He called him ‘dude’ and he lost it,” McCafferty said. “He thought it was funny, but you can tell he was fuming away inside.”
Boyer would also make up stories just for fun McCafferty said.
“He was a funny guy alway told jokes,” he said.
“One of my favorite quotes was, ‘Let me show you a trick I learned back in the war,’” she said.
Tori Bastion said the banter in the classroom helped build relationships and create a fun environment, which earned him respect from the students.
“He wanted to be everyone’s friend and at the same time (keep the) respect that came with being a teacher,” she said.
The students said they were saddened by the news of Boyer’s passing.
“He was a great teacher,” McCafferty said. “I’m sad to know that he passed.”
Boyer was born to Richard and Helen Boyer on October 23, 1955 in Ft. Leonardwood, Missouri.
He graduated from Salina South High School in 1974 and he graduated from Emporia State University in 1982 with a BS in education.
He married Kimberly Boyer in June 1980 in Salina, Kansas. They divorced in 2011. They celebrated the birth of their son, Colton Boyer on April 29, 1992.
He began teaching in Topeka, Kansas in 1983 at the Youth Center at Topeka and taught there for two years. After moving to Pittsburg, he began his career at Pittsburg High School teaching Graphic Arts.
Boyer’s family shared in his obituary that he was an exceptional guitar player.
His obituary said he was a man of many skills and few words and he was an avid outdoorsman, fisherman, an excellent marksman, and an even better tracker. He always said, “aim small, miss small.”
Boyer was also a grandfather, his obituary said he was the “best Papa ever” and was the best tag partner a little girl could ask for.
Along with being a great father and friend he could also “grow one hell of a beard.”
“He was a simple man by choice. All he needed was his family, friends, and a double round of Crown to be happy,” his obituary read.
He is survived by his son Colton Boyer and wife Lydia and granddaughter, Brileigh of Pittsburg. Former wife Kim Boyer of Pittsburg. Three sisters; Jean and husband Carl Evans of Carl Junction, Missouri. Peggy Worth and husband Bill of Louis, Iowa. Cathy Johnson of Cherokee. Phyllis Boyer of Portland, Oregon. Two brothers-in-law; Kevin Giroux of Fordland, Missouri and Kenny Appleby of Petal, Mississippi. Two sisters-in-law; Kari Giroux of Lawrence, Kansas and Kipra Streit of Salina, Kansas and many nieces and nephews. He is also survived by companion, Betsy Cabrera.
He was preceded in death by brother-in-law Bill Johnson, brother Richard Boyer and parents, Helen and Richard Boyer.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.