Retired Army Maj. Gen. Peter Boylan, Vietnam veteran and former Georgia Military College president, dies
The Union-Recorder, Milledgeville, Ga. November 15, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — Another American military hero has died.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Peter J. Boylan Jr. died Sunday morning at his home in Milledgeville surrounded by family. He served as president of Georgia Military College and Prep School for over two decades following a distinguished military career that included being critically wounded in Vietnam in 1966. He was 87.
Baldwin County Commissioner Henry R. Craig said he always had great respect for Boylan, which is why he addressed him as “General” or “Sir.”
“As those who knew him will agree, he gave great encouragement in the activities of my life’s endeavors,” said Craig. “Often that encouragement and advice was direct, loud and pushy. I was better for it. To disagree with him was always a challenge in intellect and perseverance.”
Craig said the community lost a hero.
“Maj. Gen. Peter Boylan has gone the way of all heroes, into our memories of those who have heroically served our country, our community and their families,” Craig said. “His military awards are a history of great physical and personal courage.”
Craig said what Boylan accomplished at GMC and in the community was a continuation of his courage to make great things happen for the community he adopted as his final home.
“I will miss him,” Craig said. “The community will miss him.”
Boylan reflected on his life of service in an in-depth interview in 2021. While talking about his life in the military, Boylan mentioned that he was wounded three times in enemy gun battles while fighting in the Vietnam War in 1966. He was also involved in an explosion that resulted in pieces of shrapnel being propelled into his body.
He never once called himself a hero, though.
“I’m no hero,” Boylan said in the office of his home. “I just did my duty, and what I was supposed to do.”
During his Army career that spanned more than 3 1/2 decades, Boylan was also involved in combat missions in Grenada and Central America.
He was a highly decorated ranking member of the Army. Boylan was the recipient of the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars for Valor and the Silver Star — the nation’s third-highest award for valor.
Boylan grew up a long way from Milledgeville in the small town of Portage, Wis.
“It was a small rural town,” Boylan said. “It was a place where everybody knew your business. You couldn’t get away with anything.”
The oldest of three boys, he grew up poor. His parents worked hard for what they had. Boylan never let the poverty of his upbringing in a small town stop him from achieving great milestones in his life.
He later joined the Army and was appointed to West Point.
“I went to West Point, and West Point changed my life,” Boylan said. “I learned a lot about myself — a lot of which I didn’t like.”
He later became a professor at West Point.
Boylan and his wife, Kathy, were married for more than 62 years. The couple had five children and several grandchildren, one of whom is also a graduate of West Point.
George Hogan, chairman of the Georgia Military College Board of Trustees, issued the following statement following Boylan’s passing.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I share our deepest condolences for the Boylan family. Maj. Gen. Boylan fostered a legacy that will resonate for generations to come,” Hogan said. “He left an indelible mark on GMC, and his memory will live inside our gates forevermore.”
Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, who is currently president of GMC, also issued a statement.
“We are incredibly grateful to Maj. Gen. Boylan for his leadership for 21 years,” Caldwell said. “Through his commitment and dedication to our institution, he left a legacy that we continue to build on today. We will remember him and the contributions and impact he made on our great institution.”
Lyn Chandler, a longtime member of the Baldwin County Board of Education, recalled the time that he and Boylan served together on the board of directors with the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce. Working together, the local Communities in Schools (CIS) affiliate was founded out of a discussion at a chamber of commerce retreat held in 2000.
“In that meeting, there was a discussion between him and me that our two committees should be combined as one committee,” said Chandler. “He was chairman of the adult education program, and I was chairman of the education committee. We felt like the two committees should be combined toward a common effort. And that’s really how our CIS program was created here in Baldwin County.”
Chandler said although the program got off to a slow start, it has since turned into an “outstanding” program.
He said Boylan was an outstanding person in every way.
“But I think one of his major contributions to our community was his leadership at Georgia Military College because it really turned that school around,” Chandler said. “If you go back and talk to people at GMC prior to his arrival, he really had a tremendous impact toward turning the school around and turning it into what it is today.”
Asked what he thought made Boylan such an exceptional leader, Chandler said it was his character.
“You want to say was it his military training; was it his upbringing, etc.,” Chandler said, “he was just an outstanding person in every aspect. He had a tremendous commitment to make a difference with young people.”
Chandler said Boylan wanted people to have respect and honor America.
“He wanted young people to have character,” Chandler said. “Duty, honor and character wasn’t just a slogan to him. It was his way of life.”
Chandler said Boylan influenced him as a leader.
“He helped to make me a better leader, absolutely,” Chandler said.
Todd Dixon, former chief executive officer at Atrium Health Navicent Baldwin hospital in Milledgeville, worked closely with Boylan when he served as chairman of the local hospital board.
“The thing that always stuck out to me about Gen. Boylan was how humble he was considering his accomplishments and how connected he was,” said Dixon, who now is CEO of a health care company in Buford. “I could mention anyone from Gen. George Patton to Gen. Lloyd Austin, and Gen. Boylan would have a personal story about them and their families. He seemed to have a particular affinity for Gen. Colin Powell and spoke highly of him frequently.”
Dixon described Boylan as a true patriot who could speak expertly about various wars and conflicts in American history.
“I always appreciated his knowledge and insight,” Dixon said.
Boylan appreciated the importance of having a sense of urgency, and as a leader, he expected not only action, but results, Dixon said.
“This was important for our hospital because we were aligned in that expectation,” Dixon said. “Gen. Boylan placed a premium on leadership and leadership skills, and he was obviously an expert in this area.”
The former local hospital administrator said Boylan was instrumental in leading the hospital through numerous changes during his tenure as board chairman.
“Gen. Boylan was committed to Baldwin County and truly cared about the community,” Dixon said. “Gen. Boylan was also a family man and spoke frequently about his family, of which he was understandably proud. He will definitely be missed.”
Dr. Amy Wright, executive director of Georgia’s Old Capitol Heritage Center at the Depot Inc., fondly remembered Boylan.
“I adored Gen. Boylan,” she said. “He was a giant of a man. Wherever he was, his mind was constantly thinking of positive things, especially when it came to education.”
Wright said her connection to Boylan began in the ‘90s when he saw the need for a museum of local history.
“The next thing I knew, a world-class museum became part of the Georgia Military College campus, and that was as long as he remained president,” Wright recalled.
“A committee was formed to come up with an idea, technically a gift to the community of Milledgeville, in commemoration of Baldwin 2000 Plus. The committee floundered around for a while trying to find a place to build the kind of museum that they wanted. When GMC started the renovation of the Old Capitol Building, Gen. Boylan invited the committee to consider putting the museum on the entire ground floor of the Old Capitol building. It just seemed like such a perfect place.”
The museum on the campus of GMC opened its doors in 2001 with a small exhibit. Four years later, 10 galleries had been completed.
“I then came along and joined the board in 2007, and I was just amazed at the grand ideas that Gen. Boylan had and how things could be done,” Wright said. “He didn’t just have the ideas. He made those ideas happen.”
At the same time, he wanted GMC to be recognized as a big part of the Milledgeville community, she said.
“He wanted people in Milledgeville to see that GMC wanted to give back to the community,” she said.
Wright said Boylan was always an insightful, strong-willed man, and the world is a much better place because he was in it.
(c)2023 The Union-Recorder (Milledgeville, Ga.)
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