Acting Gov. Blair Lee III has appointed his former running mate, out-going State Senate President Steny H. Hoyer of Prince George's County to a five-year term on the State Board of Higher Education.

Lee said yesterday the position is nonpaid and stressed it was he who approached Hoyer about the post. "I called him and asked him if he would be interested. He said he'd like to think it over for a day. Then he called and said he'd take it" Lee explained.

Lee said the job will provide Hoyer, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor on Lee's ticket in September's Democratic primary, with a chance to "keep (his) hand in government."

But Lee added that "this is not a job that would have a lot of political nourishment in it . . . You can serve on this (board) for 10 years without ever getting your name in the paper."

Before his defeat in the primary, Hoyer was considered one of the brightest young stars in Maryland politics. The Prince George's County Democrat was the youngest county politician ever elected to the State Senate, the youngest Senate president in Maryland history and one of the three leaders of Prince George's Democratic organization.

He made his own vigorous bid for governor before joining forces with Lee in what many political observors felt was an unbeatable coalition in the primary race for running mate. Prince George's County Councilman Sam Bogley scored a stunning victory in the primary and Hoyer's future in politics became uncertain.

Hoyer is one of eight persons, either defeated for elected office in the primary, or recently retired from a state job, for whom Lee has found a government position. The only one of the eight to be named to a full-time salaried position was Tucky P. Heller, an unsuccessful candidate for the House of Delegates in Baltimore County's 12th Legislative District. Heller was appointed director of the Office for Children and Youth.

Among others Lee has named to unpaid positions are: Ann C. Stockett, the Anne Arundel County council-woman who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor on the ticket headed by Lee's opponent, Baltimore County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis, Robert Anthony Jacques, a delegate from Monigomery County. Lee's home county, who lost his re-election bid and Eugene J. Zander, another Montgomery delegate who was defeated in the primary.

Stockett and Jacques were appointed to four-year terms on the Maryland Commission for Women. Zander was named to the board of the Patuxent Institution.

Retiring State Lottery Director Stanley S. Fine was appointed for the state Department of Natural Resources Recently retired state anditor Pierce J. Lambdin will serve of the board of trustees of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. And Russell O. Heickman, 24-year veteran of the House of Delegates who did not seek reelection this year was named to the board of review of the Department of Transportation.

When asked if he was attempting to reward these appointees for their past efforts, Lee said "I guess that was lurking in my subconscious, along with mushy-hearted sentimentally . . . These are all nice people and able people. I don't think they should be shunted off into the darkness."

Lee said he thought of Hoyer for the post on the Board of Higher Education because of his state Senate experience in dealing with budgets and with the formulas for distributing aid to the state's public institutions of higher education.

The board reviews budget requests from all public institutions of higher education in the state and makes budget recommendations to the governor, legislature and budget department, Lee said. It also passes judgement on any new programs that those institutions may want to start and is the vehicle through which state aid is distributed to private schools, he said.

Foyer will replace Austin E. Penn, 74, former board chairman of the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., who is retiring from the board, Lee said.

Hoyer, 39, who maintains a law office in District Heights was vacationing yesterday in Nantucket, Mass, and could not be reached for comment.