Elon dedicates Wilhelmina Boyd suite in Alamance

Named for the founder of Elon's African and African-American Studies program, Alamance 302 is now home to the interdisciplinary minor.


Her friends and former colleagues described her as a “rare jewel,” “fearless,” “bold,” a “tower of strength.”

K. Wilhelmina Boyd was more than a college professor – she was an inspiration to the countless students who withstood the academic rigor and expectations she demanded of them in growing both their minds and spirits for nearly two decades at Elon.

Boyd, associate professor emerita of English and founder of Elon’s African/African-American Studies Program, died in 2009, four years after her retirement from the university.

Elon President Leo M. Lambert, Associate Professor Prudence Layne, and Kay Boyd cut the ribbon to the new K. Wilhelmina Boyd Suite in Alamance building.

And in the late afternoon of Aug. 21, 2012, in a ceremony and ribbon-cutting attended by dozens of guests, Elon leaders honored Boyd’s legacy by dedicating a new office suite that bears her name.

“We stand here today because of Wilhelmina and what she started a long time ago in an institution that was a very different school,” said Elon University President Leo M. Lambert.

The suite is comprised of a spacious reception area accented with pieces of African-themed art selected from the university’s art collection. A conference room overlooking Fonville Fountain includes portraits of distinguished African and African-American visitors to Elon in recent years, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Colin Powell, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Judith Jamison, among others.

After joining the faculty in 1987, Boyd quickly went to work building the foundation of what is today’s interdisciplinary program. The office suite will house both the program and its current director, Associate Professor Prudence Layne, who on Tuesday lauded the trailblazing path Boyd set and the lives she touched during her tenure.

Though the two never met, Layne said, “I feel her presence in my work here at Elon, and her spirit.”

Kay Boyd, Wilhelmina’s daughter, spoke as well, thanking Lambert and the Elon University Board of Trustees for recognizing her mother’s vision and commemorating her work in such a fashion. Kay Boyd expressed gratitude to Elon faculty members in the Department of English for their own support during her mother’s career, as well as their love and friendship in the years preceding her death.

Associate Professor Emerita Anne Cassebaum and Monica Rogers, a family friend and former student of Boyd’s now pursuing her own doctorate, offered reflections, too. Cassebaum described Boyd’s deep curiosity and love of learning, as well as her “wonderfully wide perspective” on life and its challenges.

Rogers credited Boyd for instilling a sense of family, faith and self-importance. “Let it be known,” she said, “that we all need someone to inspire us so that this day of dedication to Wilhelmina Boyd can truly represent her as a person.”