By: Joe Boyle
More than $130,000 was raised for the 2015 Spirit Auction Fund-A-Need, the Phyllis M. Boyle Student Opportunity Fund. This new endowed fund will live in perpetuity and support Tarriers for generations to come as a resource that provides support to students so they may fully experience all that CWA has to offer and realize their full potential. Donations to this endowment fund will help to cover the costs for books, Winterim travel, athletic gear, and other expenses so that every Tarrier can experience a CWA education on more even footing. Below, read Joe Boyle’s firsthand account of his mother’s inspiring life.
My mother’s name is Phyllis Mary Boyle. She was born on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1922—93 years ago. One would hope that being born on a day full of traditionally jovial celebration would be a good omen, but that wasn’t the case for my mom. Her early years were unfortunately marked with neglect and even outright abuse, primarily at the hands of her mother. Her stories of strength and survival have now inspired three successive generations of the Boyle family and countless others to be resilient—and, above all, to value love and inclusion.
To look at one of the few photos of my mom that was taken during her adolescence would be to know she was a beautiful young woman. She had a vibrant spirit to match, but it was tamped down by prolonged emotional, mental, and physical cruelty doled out by not only her mother, but also her father and older brothers. While her brothers rode the trolley to school, wore uniforms, and ate hot lunches, my mother was made to walk to school in ragged hand-me-downs and eat lard on bread. Her mother would grab her hair and bang her head against the wall, lock her in a closet for prolonged periods, and constantly tell her she was ugly and that nobody would ever love her.
Luckily my grandmother was wrong—about everything. My mom dropped out of high school her sophomore year and found a job as a waitress at Hilltop Café on Capitol Hill in Seattle. While my grandmother took most of her earnings, my mom still felt a sense of escape from the pain she experienced at home and at school. Then, her luck truly changed: She met a dashing young man named William E. Boyle at a church gathering held at her house. They married in 1942 and later had me and then my sister, Peg.
My mom broke the cycle. Peg and I grew up in a loving home where a nurturing environment was prized above all else. Education was also highly valued. My mother did a good job of hiding the fact that she was a high-school dropout, but for most of her life she looked over her shoulder for fear of someone discovering her dark secret of what she thought was scholastic failure. But Peg and I both went on to graduate from college. Peg has a master’s degree in social work and a divinity degree, and she was the founding director of the Mercer Island Family and Youth Service. She served in that capacity for 30 years, providing the kind of help to children our mom so desperately needed when she was growing up. She’s now a minister for a Unitarian Church in West Seattle. I’ve always been an entrepreneur, getting involved in business when I was 11 by running my own paper route and lawn-mowing business. I went on to get my degree in business and had a second career as a Pierce County deputy sheriff, spending more than 20 years helping others and being a resource for people in need. It’s safe to say that our mother’s selflessness influenced Peg and me greatly.
When my daughter, Paige (Boyle) Evers ’90, came of school age, I had no doubt that I would support the importance of education, rather than undermine her educational opportunities as my grandmother had done with my mother. “The CWA community encouraged me to strive for excellence while keeping a sense of humor along the way” recalls Paige, who now lives in Delaware after having graduated from Bryn Mawr College, worked in Japan, and earned a Master of Divinity at Luther Seminary. “Now that I’m a pastor and a parent, I find much joy in passing on a love of learning to my own children and to the people I serve in my congregation and in the community. While I was growing up, my grandma always supported my education. She took an interest in the opportunities I seized, even though they were so different from her own path”.
Long story not so short, our family understands that children don’t start out on an even playing field. Being members of the CWA family has been an honor and a privilege. But that privilege comes with a price, and there are many aspects of our school’s phenomenal program that require extra funds in order to participate. That’s why our family founded the Phyllis M. Boyle Student Opportunity Fund last year. We hope to turn the dark days of my mother’s childhood into something bright and promising for current and future Tarriers. Donations to this endowment fund—which was the 2015 Spirit Auction’s Fund-A-Need—will help to cover the costs for books, Winterim travel, athletic gear, and other expenses so that every Tarrier can experience a CWA education on more even footing. Paige says she is “grateful this endowment fund will allow students to experience all CWA has to offer and to help them become lifelong learners, wherever their journey takes them.”
Our family has seen firsthand that CWA students are blessed with an opportunity to live, grow, learn, and prosper along a pathway that can lead them toward reaching their full potential. My mother has two children, three grandchildren, and soon-to-be three great-grandchildren who adore her and who have all experienced what it is to live in a loving home and receive a quality education. We hope to share this joy with as many generations of Tarriers as possible. Please consider joining us on this journey.