SGA President Ryan Boeke sat at his desk, clutching a blue and orange Nerf gun with both hands, staring down the sights through his thick, square glasses.
His target: a plastic skeleton perched on top of a ladder by the office door. As CU officials Matt Patry and Dennis Proulx chatted in Patry’s office just feet away from the shooter’s perch. Perry Ragouzis stands near the target, ready to collect the foam evidence that could later be matched to the weapon in a Student Court of law.
The gun goes off, missing the skeleton and flying into a gap in the ceiling. The room gasps. Eyewitnesses dart their eyes to Patry’s office to see if Proulx captured any of the chicanery through the windows.
“Dean Proulx is in the office, he didn’t see you!” Ragouzis exclaims to Boeke. The firearm goes back under Ragouzis’s desk and Boeke redirects his attention to his computer.
“We were just nervous because we were afraid that Dean [of Students] Proulx might look out and just see us shooting nerf guns in the office,” Boeke recalled.
“That space in the ceiling is like a time capsule for the four years of Ryan Boeke here,” says Patry, learning of the incident for perhaps the first time.
The ballad of Ryan Boeke
Boeke began his intense involvement in extracurricular activities at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum, Colorado, where he began to build a resume of experiences that reads like a Dos Equis commercial. He ran cross-country, pole-vaulted in the junior Olympics, attended national qualifiers with the debate team, anchored award-winning school news broadcasts and attended journalism conferences that led to him meeting Stephen Colbert and having lunch with the famous students in Kansas who sleuthed out a new principal’s phony credentials in 2017.
Boeke was inspired by those students.
“That was like, just incredible to talk with them…In that moment I was like ‘I know what I want to do,” he said.
So Boeke graduated and headed to Castleton to study journalism. But in short order his passion and drive faded and he found himself searching.
A week’s worth of clothes
When COVID hit in March of 2020, the thought was that classes would resume as normal in two weeks. So, Boeke went back to the Rockies with a week’s worth of clothes.
Those clothes became the uniform for his gradual disinterest in journalism.
“COVID kinda kicked my ass. I just lost motivation for everything I was doing and I could not find it,” he said.
Journalism professor David Blow was an eyewitness in the case of Boeke’s fading fire in the field.
“He was having trouble finding motivation and it was frustrating as a professor,” Blow said.
Boeke had been pursuing journalism for eight years then, a run that exceeded his usual capacity for passion in any area, which he estimates at about two-three years.
“Something about it just didn’t click with me anymore,” he sighed.
“To me, its all a part of the process of finding out who you are…I think he found it,” Blow said, a year removed from the end of Boeke’s run as a journalist.
Nowadays he’s focused on student life work and advisement, helping campuses and students achieve their full potential.
Because I know you have
Trying to get something genuine and serious from Boeke, the four-year bastion of silliness at Castleton can be like pulling teeth. Or shooting a skeleton with a nerf gun without getting in trouble.
But it would have been even harder to write three years ago, until a meeting with Patry helped to alter the course.
“As a first-year, your impish charm was endearing,” Patry told him. “As a sophomore, its wearing thin.”
The warning came about when Patry discovered a broken chair in the SGA office. Nearly a year earlier, Boeke had ridden the rolling chair down a hill on campus, crashing and severing the wheels. He hid the chair and fibbed about its destruction, but Patry wasn’t fooled.
“That [conversation] happened and I was like ‘okay, I do need to change,’” Boeke said.
He took the conversation with Patry to heart, according to the Director of Student Activities in his seventh year of staff work in 343 green.
So, Boeke went from a “silly, goofy, young student” to perhaps the best SGA President the school has ever had– seemingly overnight.
“In the past, because of my bad actions, I’ve seen it affect others and I don’t want that to happen anymore” he said.
“He’s not in it for self-gratification, it’s ‘what can we do for our students here,’” Patry said.
Because of that, it is others who try to sum up Boeke’s impact on Castleton.
“Since the announcement of the merger, he has been at every single town hall meeting, every single presidential meeting,” Boeke’s girlfriend, Mara Bailey said. “He does his best to make sure everyone is wearing green, sporting everything Castleton [apparel]. He’s been taking it very seriously and it’s been affecting him a lot.”
Boeke interjects and downplays the effects of this tumultuous time with the kind of wise crack that reminds you the silliness hasn’t faded entirely.
“Do you want me to tell Marty that you’ve cried about it? Because I know you have,” she fires back.
For those who have interacted with Boeke, that may come as a shock. It couldn’t be that the guy who’s never serious had shed a tear over the uncertainty of his school’s future. Those tears couldn’t have come from the guy who, with ironic enthusiasm, stood on top of his chair with his hand on his heart belting the alma mater at the top of his lungs during matriculation.
But it is that guy.
‘I’m gonna live my life, I guess’
After all he has done, Boeke still takes it one day at a time. He’ll leave Castleton, after four years of work in SGA, culminating with his year at the president’s desk. The Colorado kid will stay in Vermont with his girlfriend.
None of the countless delegate projects he has overseen or completed, nor his work with the Board of Trustees during the merger can make him understand what impact he has made.
“I don’t really know what I’m doing after Castleton. I’m gonna walk that stage and enjoy that weekend…then I’m gonna live my life, I guess,” he said.
In the long term, he can see himself working on campuses from coast to coast.
As for Castleton and the SGA, it’s been left in the hands of President Elect Ragouzis, who learned under Boeke’s wing as Vice President of Community Relations this year.
“I am extremely confident and everything that Perry will bring to the table. He’s an extremely witty, smart, intelligent guy and he cares a lot about preserving what we have now and making sure that our voice is heard in the process,” Boeke said.
“It has been nice to see how [Boeke’s] work and his influence on this campus shapes other people,” Ragouzis said. “He has really honed my professional skills in being able to collaborate and work with individuals of different backgrounds.”
When the final gavel bangs to adjourn the last Tuesday night SGA meeting of the year, Boeke’s term as president will come to an end, and in the fall Castleton will be missing its curly-haired kid in the rainbow crocs and the thick, square glasses. But Boeke’s legacy will continue at Castleton as every SGA delegate project he oversaw carries his stamp of approval and support in halls from the Fine Arts Center to Huden.
And somewhere in the ceiling of the SGA office, the foam dart will still be there, along with an assortment of random objects gathering dust in the darkness. The time capsule of the four years of Ryan Boeke at Castleton will be here for a long time.