The first time that I recall meeting Jim Boyd was sometime around 1996, when he participated in the first Leadership Institute for Servant-Leadership, sponsored by The Greenleaf Center. Jim was President of Weatherford College at the time, located in Weatherford, Texas. I remember being impressed by his thoughtful and deliberate nature, and by his keen insights into servant-leadership. Later on, I invited Jim to facilitate one of the Institutes and to become part of the Speakers Bureau. We would occasionally have a chance to talk at conferences and elsewhere.
Dr. Jim Boyd began his career as a teacher in the public schools of Fredericksburg, Texas. He advanced through the teaching and administrative ranks, eventually serving as Dean of the College of Education at Tarleton State University and ultimately as the fifteenth president of Weatherford College. Following his career in academia, he retired to the family’s Texas Hill Country ranch in l998 to pursue his interests in ranching, writing and lecturing.
In 2004, when he was told he had ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease, Jim began writing a manuscript which was both a reflection upon his experiences in coming to terms with ALS, and his insights into the world of leadership, and especially servant-leadership.
As I recall, it was Bob Ferguson of TDIndustries who told me in the spring of 2007 that Jim had entered the later stage of ALS; that he had written a manuscript but hadn’t yet found a publisher; and, he (Bob) wondered if I might be able to help in some way. Over the years I have done whatever I can to help authors of servant-leadership manuscripts (making connections with publishers, reviewing and critiquing manuscripts, editing, writing Forewords and Endorsements, etc.) I told Bob I would be happy to see if there was anything that I could do.
I contacted Jim, and his wife, Veleda, responded and sent me by email the manuscript. I was touched by what I read; I recognized that the manuscript needed some cleaning up and organizing prior to submitting it to a publisher; and, I offered to do both of those things and did so. I believe that we submitted the manuscript to Paulist Press in July of 2007, knowing that it can normally take at least six months before a publisher makes a decision about any manuscript.
In September of 2007, Veleda contacted me and said that Jim’s life was nearing the end. She asked if there was anything that I could do to try and get an immediate answer from Paulist Press. I contacted Paulist’s Managing Editor, Paul McMahon, and explained the situation to him. Paul said that he understood and would try to get back to me within 24 hours with a decision, which he did, and the decision that they would be publishing Lessons from Life.
I contacted Veleda and she was able to tell Jim of Paulist Press’s decision to publish his manuscript. I also encouraged the adding of a subtitle, “A Servant-Leader’s Journey,” which was incorporated into it. Two days later, I received this email from Veleda:
Jim passed away on Saturday afternoon here at the ranch with his family by his side. I am so thankful that the news about his book came before then. He was so pleased to hear that the work would be published. Thank you for all the work you did on Jim's behalf.
Paulist Press subsequently published Jim’s book, Lessons from Life: A Servant-Leader’s Journey in the fall of 2008. I think it is a splendid book, written by a wonderful man, and I highly recommend it for its insights and encouragement.
I will leave you with this postscript from the book, one of the last things that Jim was able to add to the manuscript—
Postscript from Lessons from Life: a Servant-Leader’s Journey, by Jim Boyd [Paulist Press, 2008]
Christian, Mariah, Thomas, Elisabeth Rose: As I said at the start of this work, I hoped to capture from my own imperfect life, lessons that might be of use to you in the future. My journey since then has taken me down a number of roads I never expected to follow. It may be that along the way, I became not the teacher, but the real student. As I think back on this experience, I know it has given me a much greater appreciation for all things. For that, I am so very grateful, and I suppose I have you to thank.
For me, one of the most memorable things I found in my research for “Lessons from Life” came the day I stumbled onto the words of our ancestor Roland Taylor. Two days before he was martyred in 1555, he was allowed to briefly speak with his family. His moving message to them transcends all generations. It is a message of parting and I leave it for you, your Oma [Veleda] and your moms and dads. I hope you will share it with your children.
“I say to my wife, and to my children, The Lord gave you unto me, and the Lord hath taken me from you, and you from me: blessed be the name of the Lord! I believe that they are blessed which die in the Lord. God careth for sparrows, and for the hairs of our heads. I have ever found Him more faithful and favorable, than is any father or husband. Trust ye therefore in Him by the means of our dear Savior Christ's merits: believe, love, fear, and obey Him: pray to Him, for He hath promised to help. Count me not dead, for I shall certainly live, and never die. I go before, and you shall follow after, to our long home.” [Roland Taylor, February 7, 1515]
--Larry Spears [Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010]