Boylan, highly-decorated war veteran and architect of GMC's 180, passes away at 87

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IMAGE CREDIT: West Point Center for Oral History

When Gen. Peter Boylan first became president of Georgia Military College in 1992, there were plenty of cracks in the foundation.

Literally and figuratively.

There were cracks in the road through campus, cracks in the sidewalks and even cracks in the buildings, most notably the Old Capitol Building, which was deteriorating and fading fast after years of neglect. To compound matters, the school's financial situation was extra shaky. There were problems meeting payroll, and sometimes teachers and employees wondered if they'd get a paycheck.

Fast forward 30-something years. The Old Capitol Building, which now looks like something straight from a postcard, is flanked by new and modern buildings seemingly everywhere. On top of that, GMC's community college footprint is expansive, with 15 different campuses around Georgia. GMC even offers four-year bachelor's degrees these days.

The man primarily responsible for GMC's 180 – Gen. Peter Boylan – passed away on Sunday morning. Boylan, 87, was surrounded by family at his Lake Sinclair home, according to a GMC press release. 

It's fairly fitting that Boylan passed away on Veterans Day Weekend. He was a West Point cadet, highly-decorated Vietnam War veteran and later a West Point instructor. Boylan, a paratrooper, was shot numerous times during a combat mission in Vietnam and nearly bled out. Following a prolonged recovery, instead of returning home, he jumped right back into combat action. In his later years, Boylan walked with a very pronounced limp and hunched-over posture, a result of jumping out of one too many airplanes during his time in the military.

Boylan later took part in the Grenada Invasion before retiring from the Army and taking a job as president of a struggling military school in middle Georgia. It was a long way from his boyhood home in Portage, Wisc., where he acquired the thick midwestern accent that he never lost. 

After spending countless hours around the state capitol building in Atlanta and hounding lawmakers, Boylan eventually got GMC's financial house in order, including a $21 million revocation on the Old Capitol Building. Old buildings were torn down and replaced with new ones, and GMC went from surviving to thriving.

Boylan also was one of the key players in the creation of the Oconee River Greenway, some of which sits on GMC property. Boylan once again did his magic in Atlanta, securing funds and cutting through bureaucratic red tape.

Following his retirement in 2013, despite being in substantial pain, Boylan continued to volunteer around the community. Serving on the local hospital board, Boylan helped turn around the hospital now known as Atrium Health Navcient Baldwin, which was on life support and not doing great financially there for several years.

In other words, between his work at GMC, the Greenway and the local hospital, perhaps no other person has made more of a profound and positive impact on Baldwin County in the last 30-something years.

Boylan was an especially charismatic man and knew how to work any room, but he also had a very low tolerance for BS. Even in his later years as president, when he walked with a cane and mainly got around in a golf cart, it was clear who was in charge around campus. 

Boylan cared deeply for his country, and he cared deeply for Milledgeville.

Williams Funeral Home has charge of arrangements, which are pending.

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