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Boggs

A retirement retrospective with Doyle Boggs ’70

Celebrating 32 years of service to the college and looking forward to the future

Q: You graduated from the college in 1970 then went on to earn a Ph.D. in history from the University of South Carolina, what drew you back to Wofford as an employee?

A: Wofford President Joe Lesesne asked me to come back. I had been working at USC Spartanburg at the time, and I liked it, but our former chaplain (the Rev. Talmage Skinner ’56) always used to say, “you don’t go to Wofford, you join it.” So when you join something, and you’re given a chance to come back, you’re going to want to do that. I had a job I liked, but I had a great chance to come back to Wofford, and if you know Joe, it’s almost impossible to say no to him.

Q: Was your new job as appealing as the last right from the get go?

A: I was very happy from the start. My boss was a man named Larry McGehee, and Larry and I came at almost the exact same time. In fact, I asked him, “Larry you haven’t interviewed anyone for this job yet, don’t you want to do some interviews because I’m perfectly willing to accept that,” and he said, “No you come on.” That’s the kind of relationship we had from the very beginning. People learned a lot from Larry just from sitting across the office from him and working on projects. I’ve been happy with my time at Wofford, and 32 years is a very long time to be happy.

Q: How has Wofford grown over the years that you have been here?

A: When we had our reception for my retirement, I said that there were three things about Wofford that I really liked. I said I believed in the liberal arts, and I believe in what we’re doing for the students. The second thing is the people. There have been great people from day one, and it still holds true today, particularly Annie Mitchell, the new vice president for marketing and communications. I think she’s great and has some new ideas that have just energized the whole department. The last thing is that I’ve had a chance to see Wofford grow and change over the years. I like to say that Wofford is always changing, but the good things about it never changed. We did get better though, with a better faculty/student ratio and improving our few weak departments. There’s an advantage to having a big department where they’re teaching a relatively small amount of students because you get different ideas and opinions between your faculty members that isn’t always there with a small department of two to three teachers. Another thing that has changed is that years ago, on a morning like this, the campus would have been very quiet. Now students are out wandering around and talking in the coffee shop. You just sense more energy than you would have 20 years ago. It’s a good thing.

Q: What would you say you’ve been most involved in with helping the college change?

A: One of the things that I’ve had a chance to do over the years is work a lot with the college profile. I had help, and I didn’t generate numbers out of thin air, but I had to consolidate those numbers into reports to deliver it to ratings like U.S. News. I did work a lot with the guides, and I could see Wofford getting better and better every year. When we started in 1982, we really weren’t very well known outside of a few Southern states. Now we’re clearly considered one of the 10 best liberal arts colleges in the whole Southeast. Playing a part in that is something I’ve really enjoyed giving back to my alma mater. I do think we’re now a more respected institution. I’m excited about Wofford, and I think one of the reasons I would leave now instead of years ago or years ahead is that I just really think change is a good thing. The college is ready for some new energy to fuel it. I’m watching that with great interest.

Q: Will you be keeping a close eye on the department after you leave?

A: I’m trying very hard to stay out of it, and people say they’re glad to see me when I do come by so that’s an indication that I’m not bothering people and am not constantly around. You do worry about that when you’ve been at a place a long time. Doyle Boggs had certain ways he liked to do things, but they’re going to be different; they need a chance to be different. I still want to participate in the college in other ways. One of the things I want to do is go to some of the cultural events that I didn’t have a chance to attend before. I’ll be around; I’ll pop up where I’m not expected sometimes.

Q: Could you tell me a little about your involvement with the Wofford Today alumni magazine?

A: I inherited it. One thing about Wofford Today is that over all those years, a lot of the same people were responsible for doing the publication. Mark Olencki ’75 was doing the photographs even before he began working for the college full time. He’s photographed Wofford since his student days in the 1970s. And several people, like Jo Ann Brasington ’89, have been working for Wofford Today since they were right out of college, so there’s a strong continuity in that. We worked really hard to make sure we had a lot of names in the paper. It’s kind of like your hometown weekly. They’re doing some bigger and better things now, especially with the photography and visual presentation. We didn’t have someone working for us everyday thinking about that before so we ended up looking more like a newspaper than a magazine sometimes because we never did the layout until we had all of the copy, and ideally copy and layout go together in a publication like that. I’m really pleased that Jo Ann is editing it. She will pull in more resources, and she and the creative team will continue to refine the look. It’s overdue, and I’m pleased to see what they’re doing with that.

Q: You’ve had a very storied history. In addition to your work at Wofford, you’ve been a communion minister, author and colonel in the National Guard. How was juggling all of these side occupations?

A: One of the things that has appealed to me about Wofford, and it’s part of the liberal arts, is that they not only didn’t discourage it, they actually encouraged it. It’s given me a lot of connections outside of the college that I never would have had otherwise. There were some sacrifices in terms of the number of hours I worked, but I usually got what I had to do done. Most of these things were weekend and evening types of work, and I enjoyed them all. Particularly as time went on, I got involved with the campus ministry as the Newman Club adviser. I was worried that the Catholic students here really didn’t have any sort of outreach from the parishes. I started on a modest level, and by the end I was working with a pretty progressive and exciting Catholic ministry across South Carolina. One of the things I found out very quickly is that the students have to want it. Then what you’re doing is getting the money for their ministry and making sure that we are part of a larger network. It became extremely rewarding as it went along.

Q: Do you have any big plans for your retirement?

A: I hope to do some more writing. One thing about the writing is that it is hard to do without some financial support or commitment to publish. My last book is doing pretty well, and that makes me feel like I should probably try writing again so we’ll see. I do a lot of public history, a lot of speaking and I do tours. I work with Charlie Gray ’72, Wofford’s director of alumni and parents associations, on his orbiting seminar and alumni program so I guess you can say I enjoy doing history. And that’s something that Sarah, my wife, and I enjoy doing together so that’s nice. Among other things, we’re going to go up to Virginia and look at some Virginia battlefields and visit our son and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. I do want to do some grandfathering; we have three grandchildren and another one on the way from our youngest child in April. She’s on the same schedule as the Duchess of Cambridge so we’ll see if we can work out the same birthday.

Q: How do you want to be remembered?

A: I want to be remembered for joining Wofford, as a student, Old Gold and Black editor and student sports information director, then as a member of the alumni association and employee. I worded side-by-side with great people through the years, and I am especially fond of the student workers who I jokingly called Boggs Scholars. I still treasure those relationships, and I was so pleased that a number of them came back for my retirement party. I like to think I had a small part in Wofford’s increasing momentum toward being one of America’s best colleges, particularly in 2014 with the new vision across the community. It reminds me so much of what happened after the detailed master plan of 1987. I’m retiring now because the OMC is in good hands and is ready to take the next step. I’m leaving in good conscience and with confidence that the time is right. My health and energy level are sufficient enough for me to take on some new challenges. It’s a natural progression, and I’m looking forward to the future.

by David Bass ’14