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History as Legacy: Jan Boynton & The Bicentennial Opportunity Matching Initiative

Jan Boynton (BFA '70) is an incredibly active member of the Stamps community, supporting the school since the 1980s, including substantial support of Stamps faculty work through the Bryan Rogers Edge Award.

In 2017, as the University of Michigan began its Bicentennial Celebrations, she found herself reflecting on the role that U-M played in the shaping of her personal history.

"I grew up in a rural, isolated, insular community in mid-Michigan," said Boynton. "I never fit in too well there. I asked too many questions, wanted to know more about everything, liked to talk with strangers. At the University of Michigan, I met others who were also curious about many things, and interested in learning more. I was exposed to new people, places, ideas. I also learned to experiment, to try things, to change one's mind or direction."


Like most Wolverines, Boynton has a natural curiosity and commitment to making a difference in the world that's led to an experience-rich life. After earning her BFA in Interior Design, she moved several times, and has lived in Palo Alto, California since 1977. Shortly after moving to California, a chance encounter changed her life trajectory. "I was at UCLA waiting for a friend, and a nurse walked past me. I thought 'I can do that!' I went home, looked up every accredited nursing school within 100 miles, and applied to all."

After graduating from LA Valley College, Boynton had a very satisfying thirty-six-and-a-half-year career as a registered nurse. All but one of those years was spent at Stanford University Hospital, and she thrived in her "perfect job" (crisis intervention nurse) for her final twenty-nine years at Stanford. Though working in a completely separate field of study from art and design, she reports that the "design thinking" she had previously mastered gave her a unique competence, especially as a crisis nurse.

"Usually one thinks of hospital work as requiring lots of caring, compassion, medical knowledge, and nursing skills. All of that is true. However, each rescue is also a 'design problem.' We had to assess what we had, what we needed, how to resource our needs, what substitutions might work, and how to make every aspect of care work together seamlessly," Boynton stated. "That's where my most excellent design training from the University of Michigan served me so well. I taught others what I knew, and it turns out, if one approaches a crisis situation as a 'design problem' which needs to be solved well and quickly, one stays much calmer, and thinks more clearly. These are very helpful attitudes when trying to save people's lives."

Boynton added a third degree, an MA (counseling psychology) in 1990. Since retiring, she's spending more time on environmental, animal welfare, and social justice issues.

Boynton made the decision to honor the university's Bicentennial through the creation of the JMB Scholarship, a need-based fund to support incoming freshmen in three academic units: the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; and the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. The scholarship is part of the Bicentennial Opportunity Matching Initiative, a 1:2 match for scholarship and fellowship gifts that provide need-based financial aid to support new or existing endowments for undergraduate, graduate, or professional scholarships.

"When the university accepted me as an art and design student, that gave me a chance for a better and more satisfying life", said Boynton. "My scholarship allowed me to attend, and part-time campus jobs helped me pay for housing and other expenses. I want to make sure that students continue to receive this kind of support."

For more information on the Bicentennial Matching Programs for Student Support, contact Nan Pozios (734-647-0650).