Earlier this past month, the last founding member of the Virginia Wesleyan board of trustees, Trustee Emeritus Robert “Bob” Friend Boyd passed away April 7 at the age of 90, while leaving behind a long lasting and memorable legacy. As reported by President Scott Miller in his Nota Bene, Boyd was a lawyer and a partner of the Boyd & Boyd, P.C. law firm. He was active within the United Methodist Church and earned a Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate degree from the College of William and Mary. He later went on to secure various leadership roles including being on the boards at the College of William and Mary, the Regent University school of law and Randolph-Macon Academy.
His involvement with the university dates all the way back to the 1960s as Boyd was heavily involved in making Virginia Wesleyan what it is today.
“Bob was an instrumental leader in the church and community who felt that it was important to have a Methodist affiliated college somewhere in the Princess Anne county and Norfolk area,” said President Miller.
Robert Boyd had initially helped establish Virginia Wesleyan University back in 1961. “Bob was a part of drafting the original articles of incorporation and bylaws for the university that ended up being the original documents that were submitted to the commonwealth of Virginia,” explained Miller.
Aside from taking part in founding Virginia Wesleyan, Boyd also had a part in a few things that Virginia Wesleyan is known for within the community, specifically the dining hall.
“He’s had a tremendous impact on Virginia Wesleyan. Of course, the Boyd Dining Center was named after him and his wife Sara,” said Greg West. West is the University Chaplain and was a close friend to Robert Boyd.
Boyd was also fundamental to the erection statue of John Wesley that stands outside the dining hall, which he commissioned to be forged in England.
“He commissioned the artist to make that statue and if I remember right, he told me it ended up being four trips to England to research it, to find the right artist, and then they do kind of the preliminary work to say is this what you want,” said West.
Other than the John Wesley statue and the dining hall, West also knows about a few other things that were named after him in his honor. “Every spring we have what’s called the Robert F. Boyd Institute. This is an annual gathering of pastors mostly. That’s named in his honor to kind of recognize his many years of work.”
Aside from this annual gathering, Boyd has particularly influenced West and his job as Chaplin here at Virginia Wesleyan. “I told him at one point a few years ago it would be great to have an intern to kind of help work with me, I don’t have a secretary, but not just for that work but somebody that could be a right-hand person. So, Bob gave some money to establish that and we have named that position in his honor. I hire a Boyd Fellow,” said West.
Boyd had many responsibilities as a member of the board of trustees. “He was instrumental in attracting some of the business people to the original board of trustees here and he was instrumental in attracting people with significant wealth that would give money to build the campus that we have today,” said Miller.
By being a part of raising money to help the school thrive and succeed, Boyd was heavily immersed with the fundraising department here at the university. Senior Vice President for the Office of Advancement, Mort Gamble, expressed how valuable his presence truly was. “We worked with him on finding support for various projects including the Boyd Dining Center and Marlin Ministries as well. So, his commitment to the institution was not just spiritual and not just as a trustee but also somewhat financial.”
Regardless of having more of a behind-the -scenes presence, Boyd had a great and meaningful impact to anyone who had the pleasure of meeting him.
“I admired him very much. I did not know him well, I’ve only been here no more than two years myself but his name and the Boyd Family’s name was one of the first names I heard mentioned when I arrived as being important to our heritage and our history as an institution,” said Gamble. “I always enjoyed talking to him, he was a very humble man, a man of quiet strength but strong conviction and I gathered that from the few times I was able to meet him.”
West had only good things to say when talking about his bond with Boyd. “We had a friendship that was faith centered or faith oriented that was a big passion of his. At the funeral, his grandchildren that spoke and his son spoke as well, that’s how they described him. A man of great generosity, a man of faith, a man who cared for his family and a man of great integrity.”