Bob Boyda chuckles as he recounts his days at Western during the late 1970s and the creative dorm room pranks and shenanigans. But there is a more sobering memory that this Arts and Humanities alumnus will never forget because it would impact his life and career: the moment his English professor informed him that he had no idea how to write.
For Boyda, who was a high-achiever throughout secondary school, the realization that his writing skills were subpar was devastating. In time, however, he was able to look past this brief moment of despair to see the bigger picture. The fact that his professor cared enough about him to take him aside and challenge him to do better is something that has stuck with Boyda all these years.
Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, Boyda was inspired early on to dream big. As a young boy, Boyda’s unusual hobby of following the stock markets would shape his future career ambitions. Driven to experience life beyond the steel manufacturing town, Boyda was convinced that a business degree would be his ticket to success. His path would soon change. Encouraged to take a broader approach to his education, Boyda immersed himself in the arts and humanities during his studies at Western and never looked back. He speaks fondly of a logic class that was held for 3 hours on Friday afternoon, so “you REALLY had to want to be there!” And he did. This logic class, along with courses in statistics, computer science, English and philosophy helped shape the businessman that Boyda is today. He claims he would never have the career he has today if he wasn’t encouraged to dabble in as many subjects as his liberal arts degree would allow.
Now residing in Boston, as the current Senior Vice-President, John Hancock Investment Management Services, Boyda oversees the management of all of the firm’s Lifestyle portfolios and also serves as a Vice President to Manulife Financial. From effective memo writing to the rigors of logic learned from philosophy, not a day goes by where Boyda doesn’t fully use the academic arsenal he acquired through his years at Western.
With his own teenaged son nearing high school graduation, Boyda speaks of the daunting task of determining one’s future at such a young age. As a parent, he encourages his son to experience as many opportunities as possible. Boyda points out one of the major strengths of the Canadian university system, and of Western in particular, is the flexibility to explore all of one’s academic options from day one. This philosophy seems to be falling by the wayside south of the border as financial barriers often hinder exploration in higher education. Boyda is concerned by this trend. The future depends on “dynamic leadership” with seemingly disparate fields such as science and the humanities working together and, in order to be successful, as a business and as an individual, “you have got to be able to do both well.”
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