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Published October 20, 2020
The University of Wyoming has received a transformational estate gift from the late geology and geophysics Professor Donald Boyd, who passed away in April at the age of 92.
A man of ritual, Boyd walked to and from the university’s campus nearly every day until shortly before his 90th birthday. For 62 years, he walked briskly through Wyoming’s diverse weather, greeting people along the way. No one could match Boyd’s pace, even in his later years. The motivation for his discipline was simple: He wanted to stay healthy so he could care for those he loved. With his powerful stride, he walked with the purpose to give back to others.
However, few knew of Boyd’s incredible generosity. He and his wife gave privately and anonymously, with no desire for acknowledgement. Today, the substantial total of their giving remains undisclosed.
“I had the pleasure of knowing Margaret and Don Boyd for nearly 50 years, as well as serving as their attorney for 47 of those years,” says Donald Prehoda Jr. “Although their resources were considerable, they chose to live modestly and devote their time and energy to their love of teaching and academic research.
“There was no greater joy than for them to guide their students in their chosen educational pursuits and follow their successes. It was this focus that led them to a lifetime of support to the University of Wyoming, as well as to countless other personal and charitable causes.”
Boyd joined the UW Department of Geology in January 1956. In the summer of that same year, a Colorado native named Margaret Sitzman moved to Laramie and became a professor in the Department of Home Economics (later changed to Family and Consumer Sciences). Her friends and family were hesitant about her relocating to Wyoming but, much like Boyd, she had a persistent spirit. The decision would forever change the trajectory of the university.
In late summer 1956, the two attended a UW event for new faculty, where they met for the first time. He would later describe himself as being smitten. They were married one year later. The two faculty members built a partnership that was focused on facilitating and empowering those around them. Individually, they pursued remarkable careers. Together, they impacted the university in a way that is unparalleled.
Boyd was an active researcher, and much of his paleontological work was published by the American Museum of Natural History. His research led him to pursue fieldwork on six continents. He mentored 52 graduate students and taught courses in historical geology, invertebrate paleontology and various aspects of sedimentary geology.
Boyd taught his students with a high degree of organization and clarity, something that was greatly appreciated by those who learned from him. In addition to his analytical nature, he was a passionate educator. In the 1960s, he received a grant to build a 45-foot-long flume that was used to demonstrate sediment transport. The experiment was an immersive learning experience for his students.
Margaret taught in food and nutrition and served as coordinator of the Dietetics Program. She co-wrote the book “Baking and Cooking at High Altitudes,” which was published by the UW Agriculture Experiment Station in 1961. The publication furthered food science, examining ingredient reactions on a cellular level. She eventually became the head of the Department of Home Economics.
Both were highly respected faculty members. He received the Standard Oil Foundation Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching, the UW College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Former Faculty Award and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award. She was named Mortar Board’s Outstanding Faculty Member. Together, they received the UW Board of Trustees Award of Merit.
The couple is responsible for advancements across campus. Boyd was essential to the creation of the UW Honors College (formerly the Honors Program). In 1988, he was appointed as the program’s director. Throughout his career, he helped elevate the UW Department of Geology and Geophysics into the academic powerhouse it is today. The couple also provided years of support to the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Scholarship opportunities were a focal point for the Boyds. In 2001, they established the Geology Excellence Fund and the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences Endowment.
“Don and Margaret were UW faculty giants,” says Ben Blalock, president/CEO of the UW Foundation. “They touched countless lives during their UW careers. Their legendary careers at UW were marked each day by humility. They never sought to draw any attention to themselves. It was their depth of care for students that so beautifully defined Don and Margaret. We still miss them each day.”
In 2012, Margaret passed away after a battle with cancer. To honor his wife, Boyd continued the efforts he and Margaret had led during their time together. Those who had the privilege of knowing the Boyds have felt a tremendous loss in their passing.
“Don and Margaret Boyd were special people whose generosity impacted many. I was incredibly blessed by my relationship with them,” says close friend Mona Gupton. “Margaret was always warm and welcoming. We shared a friendship of more than 20 years.
“After her passing, my children and I welcomed Don into our family. He joined us for family dinners, outings and holidays. He could talk about any subject -- history, politics, sports, geology or current events -- and his dry wit made those private moments memorable. He loved a good joke. He could recite poetry from his youth. I respected his opinion and knowledge. He was gracious until the end. Every conversation with him was a life lesson. Don and Margaret derived genuine pleasure from helping others. I will miss them for the rest of my life.”
The Boyds’ generosity extended beyond their monetary support, which was evident through their engagement with the UW community. The magnitude of their impact may never be truly known, but it is certainly felt by those whose lives were touched by their immense love for the university.