Jon Mark Beilue: The Power in Professors

 

April 11, 2019

The Power of Professors

In a life cut short, Greg Boyd benefited from those who believed

By JON MARK BEILUE

In the 1970s, Greg Boyd was never all that interested in high school. Despite his dad, Darrell, being an upper level math teacher at Amarillo High School, where Greg went to school, and his mom, Janie, teaching at Sam Houston Middle School, education was just something to endure.

He wanted to make some money, not go off to college. It frustrated his parents.

“We knew he was capable of so much more,” Janie said. “I would have been shocked had he wanted to go to college.”

After graduation from Amarillo High in 1979, Greg initially collected garbage for the city of Amarillo. A connection later landed him work as an oil field roughneck near Perryton. The money was good, but eventually, that played out. By then, he had a young wife and needed a job.

Greg soon found himself in Dalhart. He learned the trade of a butcher and eventually, became meat market manager for United Supermarkets. But that began to wear on him.

“He told me he wanted to work with his brain and not his back,” Janie said.

He quit his job and turned his sights to Canyon and then-West Texas State. He was 28 and now, realized the road that education could open.  But the thing was, Greg didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do and if anyone could help.

It wasn’t long before he thought he’d give math a try. He was always good with numbers, but never really applied himself. He never had his dad as a high school math teacher because he was just interested in getting by, not upper level studies.

Would professors at WT look at him as just another confused face? Would they even bother that much to reach out to a somewhat older student who had been out of the classroom for nearly a decade? 

Greg Boyd

Those were questions that soon got an answer. For Greg, WT was not so much a foundation but a springboard, a bounce into a rich and rewarding career. Led by former professor David Patterson, professors guided Greg in a way he never saw coming. There is nothing so powerful as the gift of believing in someone. WT believed in Greg.

“He developed confidence there,” Janie said. “WT turned his life around. Those professors nurtured his innate abilities.”

They did so in that not only did Greg, once turned off by the classroom, earn a degree in mathematics in December 1993, he also earned a master’s in mathematics in 1997.

He would not be the first or last in his family to benefit from a WT degree. Six have nine degrees as Buffs.

His mother got two degrees. A sister, Lori Garner, taught math after graduation from WT and then, returned to get a nursing degree. She is now a pediatric nurse at BSA Hospital. She works in the same hospital as her daughter, Jamie Moore, a WT graduate.

All had their lives shaped by WT, but perhaps none as much as Greg. He wanted now to be a math professor, to teach on the college level. It was following a near-identical path of what his dad did for nearly 30 years. His father died in 2004, and Janie remarried to Robert Baldwin, who was a math teacher for five years at Tascosa High School.

Shortly after earning his master’s, Greg was hired by the math faculty at Murray State College in Tishomingo, Okla. Eventually, he would rise to head of the math department. He was a fixture there for 22 years.

“He was steady and reliable,” said Dr. Kirk Rodden, chair of the Social Science Department at Murray State. “He didn’t mix with his students much, but on the other hand, he was there if they had a problem.

“I don’t know how many students he took under his wing to get them shepherded through math, the kind of students not many wanted to touch. That’s the challenge we all have, but especially, a math professor. But Greg enjoyed seeing the light bulb come on in a student’s head when they finally got it. It was especially satisfying for him to crack through that resistance and fog of a student and have them get it.”

Greg Boyd, 57, was buried on April 4. His vehicle collided with an 18-wheel truck on Highway 1 on the morning of March 27 on his way to teach a morning class.

“There are no words to describe it,” said a mother of losing a son, “but we are as positive as much as we can be because of our strong faith in God.”

The small campus of 2,500 students was shocked. Missy, his second wife of 16 years, was devastated. So were the four grown children between the marriages of the two, eight grandchildren as well as others.

“The blow here was just devastating,” Rodden said, “especially to his staff and the students who had him. There’s a hole there that can’t be filled and in ways we don’t know yet.”

This much is known. At university commencement ceremonies, students in cap and gown have their names called, receive their degree and walk away. They walk away, it’s hoped, to write their own hopeful chapters of their lives.

For Greg Boyd, the last 22 years of his career were certainly that. Yes, he was the one responsible for changing his life more than anyone, but a Mathematics  Program at West Texas A&M University more than a quarter-century ago saw promise in a late-bloomer, and nurtured that to a new life.

Do you know of a student, faculty member, project, an alumnus or any other story idea for “WT: The Heart and Soul of the Texas Panhandle?” If so, email Jon Mark Beilue at jbeilue@wtamu.edu.

 

—WTAMU—


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