Celebrating Sandy

Willard “Sandy” Boyd is pictured at the University of Iowa College of Law in this undated photo from the 1950s. Photo courtesy UI Special Collections’ Frederick W. Kent Collection of Photographs.

Willard Boyd never had much time for formalisms as University of Iowa president.

He and his family stayed put at their off-campus address rather than moving into the President’s House for much of his tenure. His commencement addresses were famous for their brevity. And he preferred to be called by his nickname, “Sandy.”

So it was only fitting that he did his best to deflect any laurels back to his audience during a spring reception celebrating his retirement.

“I do believe strongly that people, not structures, make great universities, and you are the people who make our university great,” Boyd said before receiving a standing ovation this past spring from the UI and state leaders who filled the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. “Furthermore, I believe that others give meaning to life, and you have given great meaning to our lives.”

Students “forcibly” carry President Boyd out of his office on the last day of his presidential tenure, Aug. 31, 1981. Photo courtesy of University of Iowa Libraries—Special Collections.

The reception bookended Boyd’s long and accomplished career at UI, where he first arrived in 1954 as a member of the law school faculty. He then served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of facilities before being appointed as UI’s 15th president in 1969. Boyd led UI through an unprecedented era of campus growth—along with the social unrest of the late 1960s and early 1970s—during his 12 years as president.

Boyd left UI in 1981 to become president of the Field Museum in Chicago, but his home was always Iowa City. He returned in 1996 to rejoin the law faculty and served a number of roles in his later years at the university, including interim president in 2002 and 2003 and interim director of the UI Museum of Art in 2010.

Current President Bruce Harreld, UI Foundation President Lynette Marshall, College of Law Dean Gail Agrawal, and former Board of Regents President Mary Louise Petersen, 51BA, paid tribute to Boyd at the reception, sharing their favorite “Sandyisms.” Among those pithy yet profound platitudes were: “The river runs through the campus; it does not divide us,” and “a vibrant university depends on a vibrant Iowa; a vibrant Iowa depends on a vibrant university.”

While Boyd, 89, formally retired from teaching in 2015, he has remained a fixture on campus. This past year, he could be found most days in his fourth-floor office in the Boyd Law Building, where a bust of him sits in the lobby that students festoon according to the season—Hawkeye attire before football games and academic regalia during graduation week.

In retirement, Boyd plans to work on his memoirs—and no doubt pen a few new Sandyisms.

—Josh O’Leary, Iowa Alumni Magazine


Hear Sandy Boyd speak at his recent retirement reception here:

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Shirley Burger
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    It was great being friends with you.

  2. Gerald Thain
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    It is people, not structures that make a great University & Sandy Boyd was on of the most important people moving UI forward during the last 60 plus years. I was honored to have been among his students at the Law School.

  3. Dale Scannell
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Dear Sandy, Congratulations on your many accomplishments and the well deserved accolades you have received from the UI family. It was my good fortune to work with you during my tenure in the College of Education and that experience contributed to my successes in deanships I held after leaving IU. I am confident that you and your family will enjoy many productive years in your retirement. Thanks for your mentoring and friendship. With best wishes, Dale Scannell

  4. John Perry
    Posted June 22, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure Sandy Boyd does not remember that he graduated one more student than the official records show. On our first date, my now wife of 46 years said she was at UI to get her MRS degree. Of course, I didn’t “get it” at the time. When we married in 1970, I had a small diploma printed that read, “The University of Iowa Presents the Degree M R S to Jennifer”. I asked the Dean of the Engineering College to sign it and he laughed and sent me to THE PRESIDENT. I was very nervous, but Sandy set me at ease and really seemed to enjoy graduating my wife. I still cherish that little piece of paper with his signature!! Thanks for reminding me.

Post a Reply to John Perry Cancel reply

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

  • Welcome

    The University of Iowa Center for Advancement's Blog, posting interesting tidbits about programs, events, IOWA clubs, Iowa-related stories, UI news, and other topics of interest to UI alumni.

  • Search Post by Date

    October 2018
    M T W T F S S
    « Jun