50 Great Years: A Tribute to Mr. Boyd

Jim Boyd

Jim Boyd

The image of an impeccably drawn cartoon bear omnipresent on a Chamberlayne Hall bulletin board epitomizes math teacher Mr. Jim Boyd ’54. He, of course, is much more than that, but he has made math fun for 50 years for St. Christopher’s students by turning Professor Bear and Doctor Dog into school icons. The school mantra, “We can’t all be scholars, but we can all be gentlemen,” might set a good example for students, but Mr. Boyd shows us how to be both.

A graduate of St. Christopher’s, Mr. Boyd studied at Hampden-Sydney College and University of Virginia before returning here to teach. One of Mr. Boyd’s most impressive scholarly achievements is his three master’s degrees, two in math and one in physics. He has published hundreds of papers in journals worldwide and has helped students achieve some of the same feats by co-authoring papers with them. He was also named a fellow of Hampden-Sydney in the natural sciences.   

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 2.21.42 PMWhen Mr. Boyd first arrived, he taught math, physics and even English. “He is really interested in the idea of the whole boy,” said former French teacher Mr. Joe Knox. In addition to his scholarly nature, Mr. Boyd is the perfect southern gentleman— calm, respectful, smart and kind. He’s always polite. This trait shines through when Mr. Boyd refers to everyone, even students, with as formal of a title possible. Mr. Knox said, “If I saw Mr. Boyd in the halls today, it’d be nothing but ‘Mr. Knox, how are you doing today?’ ” His respectfulness is reflective of a simpler, kinder world that sometimes seems forgotten. Even though some of that is captured on this campus, Mr. Boyd takes it to another level.

One of the most memorable parts of Mr. Boyd’s class for any of his many lucky math students over the years is his tradition of Coke raffles; he always seems to know just when Upper School students need a quick boost to get through the day. Whether it be a guessing game for a Coke, four omits from the ACME testing service or just Mr. Boyd’s friendly smile, his classroom is a welcoming place for any student. Upper School Chaplain Melissa Hollerith said, “He sees the good in every boy, the potential, and I think that’s what makes him such a great teacher.”

Mr. Boyd has a certain unreplicable enthusiasm for this school and for the people who are here. According to the Rev. Hollerith, “He’s the first one in chapel every morning, and I always think, ‘The Bear is in his spot.’ ”  He always begins each day ready to teach, but also to learn. In my time in Mr. Boyd’s class, nothing stood out more than the discussions, maybe even arguments, that we had. He was almost always right, and I see that looking back, but I can never say that he didn’t intently listen to what I had to say.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.31.05 PMAnother facet of Mr. Boyd’s personality is his way with words. Though he’s firstly a mathematician, Mr. Boyd’s wit and poetic talent always give students a laugh when he writes a short poem at the end of a test. His expertly drawn characters, Dr. Dog and Professor Bear, are sure to show up on anything from a “Q and A” homework assignment to one of his weekly tests. In more recent years, Mr. Boyd has served as the introduction to Upper School math for many ninth grade geometry students in what he calls his favorite class, and we’ll be hard pressed to find someone better equipped to offer underclassmen their introduction to the Upper School.

When talking to Mr. Boyd, he’s clearly humble and reserved, but what he does say is worth hearing. “This place feels very much like home,” he said, “Teaching is an extension of family. It’s the finest of professions.”      –  Kinloch Nelson, Class of 2018


Good Morning.  First I’d like to thank Mr. Boyd for all the time he has spent working with me over the past three years.  I was lucky.  Even though I never had the chance to have Mr. Boyd in the traditional sense of a class, I got to spend much more meaningful time one on one over the past three years.  Besides all the new mathematics you learn, what makes working with Mr. Boyd so special is that he also incorporates life lessons.  Now if I were to stand up here and tell you everything I have learned from Mr. Boyd, I don’t know when I would step down.  However, there are a few things I will always carry with me. “Work Hard,” “Have Energy,” and most importantly “Enjoy What You Do.” Unsurprisingly, you can find all three of these on Bill Gate’s ten rules for success.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 3.31.59 PMBefore I get ahead of myself, many of you may not know exactly what Mr. Boyd and I have been doing for the past three years.  Starting sophomore year, I began an independent Math Study with Mr. Boyd and we would meet in his office during a regular class period.  The summer before Mr. Boyd had compiled a list of subjects we could research including Number Theory, Cryptography and Boolean Algebra, which many of you may know from Mr. Kiefer’s Knight and Knave problems or if you were lucky enough to have taken Mr. Boyd’s freshman geometry class.  Our objective was to learn as much as we could within the time we had while also working towards publishing various articles on the topics I just mentioned.  To show the true extent of our work together, Mr. Boyd and I have officially submitted sixteen articles, four of which have already been published.

Throughout high school I have incorporated Mr. Boyd’s philosophy of doing hard focused energized work.  Our work together is living proof that this philosophy actually works.

Enjoy What You Do. Mr. Boyd is the essence of this lesson.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked into his office and he is diligently solving a new problem and he looks over his shoulder calling me over to his desk so he can show me what he’s been working on.  I sit there nodding acting like I know what he’s doing.  I hope I enjoy my future profession half as much as Mr. Boyd loves his.  Mr. Boyd does all of this work simply because he loves teaching and mathematics.  Even this year, I do not have a formal class with him, but every so often he will email me about his new material and ask me to read over and edit what he’s done.  Fascinated by every new idea he thinks of, as for our last article, Mr. Boyd told me that he was just curious to see if he could write the lengths of the angle bisector in a triangle in terms of the original three sides of the triangle.

I am only one small portion of Mr. Boyd’s legacy and grateful to be a part of it.  I hope everyone in this room has had a chance to at least get to know Mr. Boyd, for teachers like him are rare.  Thank you again, Mr. Boyd, for a wonderful three years.     

– Hunter Reinhart, Class of 2016

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  • jane Emrick says:

    Great tribute, boys. I’m glad our young writers have honored Mr. Boyd so well.
    His artwork and the words/puns that accompany them, have put me in mind of James Thurber. Thinking, and then chuckling. Thanks Mr. Boyd, for all the influence you had on my son and on all our sons.