Xulon Press Successful Author Spotlight: Dr. Minnie Boyer Woodruff

Filed in Successful Author Spotlight by on May 10, 2013 0 Comments

Xulon Press author Minnie Boyer WoodruffToday’s Xulon Press Successful Author Spotlight focuses on one of America’s best treasures: our classroom teachers.  Dr. Minnie Boyer Woodruff has dedicated her life to teaching: in the classroom, the boardroom and the living room. She is often called the “Christian educator of our time!” as a teacher and renowned public speaker who rose up in the ranks of education to be a principal for 40+ years.  Her book “My Doctors Can See You Now—A Mother’s Story” portrays a mother who was always teaching: forty years in the classroom and a lifetime at home. Check out her website at: www.minnieboyerwoodruff.com Her book presents a down to earth, hands-on, nuts and bolts discussion of how a child of segregation, who was not allowed to go to the high school closest to her house in Winter Park, Florida, was able to raise two daughters, both of whom became doctors. This is a story of determination, conviction and resolve: Dr. Woodruff explains that there was no question as to education—it was a mandate and expectation!

Dr. Minnie Boyer Woodruff grew up in a Central Florida family of eight children raised by two domestic workers during a time when segregation limited opportunities for individuals of color. Despite its humble origins, the Boyer household was replete with parental beliefs that one must love God, develop a strong work ethic, and take advantage of every opportunity that would enable one to make a living with brains rather than brawn. From the stories of Minnie’s youth, we can see how this background shaped a woman who remained dedicated to achieving her dreams and then those of her daughters behind her. She explains that it was not a decision to make; it was a determination to achieve.

Dr. Woodruff shared her story. “It was the best of times, worst of times in Winter Park in mid 40’s  through the mid 50’s. I lived on the west side of Winter Park, Florida. The street lights ended before Park Avenue. The blacks lived in the bottom residential subdivision. Our family had five boys and three girls. My father was a minister and a common laborer. Remember that movie “Driving Miss Daisy”, my dad was the Morgan Freeman character “Hoak”. My father was a small guy with asthma; he was a house man. Mom was a domestic worker for professors of Rollins College, a private institute of higher learning called the “Harvard of the South”. In our community, there were seven or eight “big” families (with five or more children), living in the same area, all with a mom and dad living in the home. The foundation of our upbringing back then: Family, home, school, church, community. Our parents believed in Christ as the head of our home and raised us to fear God.”

She continues “There was a two pronged approach to living. Children should obey and… be kept close to the home. Church was very important. We attended Flowers Temple Church of God in Christ, on the corner of Pennsylvania and Lyman. In our upbringing, the Church was the only other institution beside the home. It was the social, educational, emotional outlet—they taught us about the Bible—they preached “you will get ahead in life if you fear God.” My mom’s education was through 5th grade; dad’s was 8th grade. We went to church all day Sunday. Dad was a minister. Mom and Dad said “I believe the Lord will make a way”—no matter what it was, that was their answer– Whether short of money to buy groceries or to get a car. We didn’t just sit there and wait. They made an effort to get the things they needed. Dad worked three jobs. In the mornings, they were on their knees praying and then would get up and go to work. Dad walked to work, walked his soles off his shoes, working for a dairy when I was born. He did whatever job was offered him so our family needs could be provided for.”

Dr. Woodruff explains “The girls went to work with Mom. Boys went to work with Dad. Our parents wanted us to fear God, believe in God, be active in the church and get an education. They felt the way to lift ourselves up was through an education. Children were not apprised of the worst of times. At the height of segregation, we were bussed away from Winter Park High School– which was only a few blocks away from our home. We were not told that it was wrong. Parents never bad mouthed anyone’s religion or segregation or any one’s views. We were not allowed to participate in school functions. I wanted to be a majorette but my parents said “the world will not be as kind to you as the church”. I see the church as a building or a belief but also… the Church is the people. Church was a formal outlet for expressing our faith and beliefs. We just flat didn’t know anything else. We believed if we pray and live a good Christian life, God would provide whatever we needed. We grew up knowing that there was an inner feeling that makes us a Christian, not just attendance at church. Family and church ran neck and neck.”

Woodruff continues “Community and education- they were paramount tenets of our upbringing. For example, I wanted to be part of the Girl Scouts. There was no way to get a uniform– no money. Mom wanted me to be a part of that. Our Troop was planning a trip to Rollins College. I was 10 years old. My Mom snuck me in. Remember that this was 1947-48. Mom got a uniform from the goodwill store. I wore a white dress and white socks underneath, but they let me go with the troop and I got into Rollins College—through the side door. Mom had me go to work with her to do work for the professors of Rollins College, doing housework. Mom assigned the Den dusting to me. She would have me read the diplomas and said she wanted that for her kids. She said that “professors were living an easier life– maybe it would lead to something that we can’t get for you.” That’s why she wanted her kids to get an education. My brother was not going to college, he was going to work and help out. My Mom broke down and cried and said, “If you don’t go to college, you will be just like us and just where we are now.” Her brother went on to college—all eight children graduated from college and have amassed 43 degrees collectively.

She described their idyllic life. “We had three outlets: church, ball and school. Children today have so many other things in their mind. We had a piano. Someone my dad worked for gave us the piano. The 2nd son played the piano every chance he had. My two brothers would become the famous “Boyer Brothers”, singing all around the country. My brother Wyatt Boyer was a published author. We all sang together. The “Boyer Family Singers” would practice every Saturday. But even then, not everyone in the church wished us well. When the Boyer children started going away to college, some in church would question how my parents’ kids could go to college if our parents were common workers? But my parents encouraged us to go to school.”

Dr. Woodruff answered the question “How much support must one have to get to the next level? Prayer, support, motivation, encouragement all led to the success of the Boyer children. Dad was artistic and enjoyed painting and writing stories. Mom was the one who would cook for Sunday dinner. We sat at Sunday morning breakfast before church. There was a big pan of biscuits, bacon and molasses. We sat in order of our birth. Mom would begin the prayer. Without fail, she would ask for everyone by name, praying He would direct their path– but then, she would bring up whatever went wrong in the past week for each child and instructed them not to do that again. We got the message!  I was child #5. I would start listening at child #4. When Mom was finished, she would turn it over to Dad to finish. He would finish the prayer, kids would say amen. Mom would read the 27th Psalm – which is now my favorite scripture. Mom would have each of us repeat after her. Once finished—she would say “Wait on the Lord”. Then we would say amen. Then we could eat.”

She reflects “That’s just not how life is today. But… it has been our guiding force through the years—that guiding faith. We didn’t know anything else. We had faith and we believed. We knew that our strength would come from the Lord. We had to put all of our hope in the lord. The ways that we developed– we all learned how to develop ourselves. My Brothers did gospel singing on the weekends while they were in college at Bethune-Cookman College. I was attending Spellman College. Without fail, every Tuesday, I got a letter with a $2 allowance from my brothers. We took care of one another!”

We often ask those who succeed what caused their success. I asked Dr. Woodruff, as a lifelong educator and mother of two successful children, for her advice to young parents raising children in the Millennium. She offered: “Time is the advice I would give to parents. We have lost that opportunity to sit and talk and hear out and share our own experiences and let the child speak. We have stopped listening. The time to spend with them; children deserve one-on-one time with parents. Get to know each child as individuals. I call it “individualized parenting”. I speak to one child about one thing one way and speak to another about the same thing in a different way. They are different, so it is incumbent to me to make the adjustment. It is my job to adjust my style to meet them in the way they need me to be met. I the parent am responsible for this. Parents must understand how to parent and one size does not fit all. There is a difference between being equal and being fair. As you need… you receive!”

With a lifetime as an educator, I asked Dr. Woodruff “What will they write on your gravestone that will sum up your life?” She responded “I had an opportunity to influence lives. First and foremost, I am a mother. I raised self reliant women.”

When I questioned her on what she would say to parents today, she replied “People say you can be anything you want to be, but you have to have gray matter, some basic intelligence, you need something to build on, and then you can increase it as soon as you realize that it is that foundation of intelligence that makes the difference in your future. It is a blessing when children enjoy school. Make school work for you. Smart is the way you live your life and what you give back and how you live it. Raspberries don’t raise blueberries. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. Be their example!”

I have to admit, I felt like I had been to class — Parenting ABCs! Dr. Woodruff explained that she has seen a change in the past forty years: in our education system and in the American family. She wrote this book to describe what choices she made in raising her Doctor Daughters. Expectation and Education, Empathy and Expectancy — all keys to raising productive children who become responsible adults—and passing on these tenets of faith and family on to the next generation.

As they say in the South, “the proof’s in the pudding” and Dr. Woodruff and her beloved husband of 43 years, Claude Woodruff II, who passed away a few years ago, her “Coach”,  have led by example: teaching by their life and instructing by their actions, producing children who make a difference in our world today. Her sage advice gives parents reason to pause and ponder: Time? Listening? Getting involved? Expecting more? Be an example? Individualized parenting? Prayer? All key elements to being the parent each child deserves.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart.” Proverbe 22:6 reminds us that Training takes Work!

Dr. Woodruff inspires us to be the best parent we can be… because our children deserve our Best!

Find Dr. Woodruff’s book “My Doctors Can See You Now – A Mother’s Story” in the Xulon Press Bookstore.

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About the Author ()

Alan P. Scaglione is a writer who reflects on the simple contradictions and complexities to living this ”gift from God” called life. He believes that Life is a journey that, with compassion, a little levity and perspective, we help each other get through. His greatest compliment was being told “you draw pictures with your words!” He has devoted his life to “drawing”…in his poetry, his songs, his weekly “Reflections of Life” blog entries, his monthly SAS articles, his short stories and now, his novels! Alan is an everyday guy who refuses to let circumstances dictate his view to life; he lives an attitude of gratitude and spreads his positive outlook everywhere he goes. His BEST day is a day shared making a memory that will last a lifetime! Please check out Alan’s books “One Unexpected Event – How Would Your Life Change?” and its sequel “One Unexpected Event – Aftermath!” in the Xulon Press bookstore.

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