By Bill McLean
ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITT
By Bill McLean
ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITT
Fresh out of college at age 22, Bruce Boyd lived and work in Spain for six months.
“I made great friends in that country,” he recalls.
He also made office partitions as a factory worker in that country.
Now 66 years old and a longtime resident of Highland Park, Boyd—an ex-lawyer like his wife, Beth—would go stir-crazy if he had to spend more than a minute in a cooped up, indoor setting replete with barriers that isolate employees.
Exhibit A: Boyd is the executive director of the Morrison Family Foundation, which supports champions of environmental justice who ensure everyone, regardless of race, identity, or community, has the opportunity to experience the mental and physical health benefits of being outdoors.
“The more time kids spend outside, the healthier they are, and research backs that up,” says Boyd, who was a principal and managing director at Arabella Advisors, an award-winning consulting firm that enables clients across the philanthropic sector to tackle society’s biggest challenges more efficiently, effectively, and equitably.
“The Morrison Family Foundation,” he adds, “offers programs to kids who lack opportunities to experience the joys of being outdoors and engaging with others outside.”
Exhibit B: Boyd served as senior manager of The Nature Conservancy. Its vision is a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill needs and enrich lives. Boyd led the conservancy’s Illinois Program, the Upper Mississippi River Project, and the four-continent Great Rivers Partnership.
Exhibits C, D, and E: He bikes nearly 200 miles every summer to Galena, with Beth (a designer and an accomplished competitive racer) and six to eight of their friends; his favorite seat in the world is on an Adirondack chair, alongside Beth, in the couple’s lawn-less, nature-centric yard, where they sip cocktails and view birds, butterflies, bees, moths, foxes, and deer; and he gives maple syrup to friends after drawing sap (“It take 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup,” he says) from his trees in February and March.
Boyd also finds time to serve on the board of the Lake County Community Foundation, work with the Empowerment Collective—an organization that supports and empowers women in Nepal and India—and volunteer as an instructor who teaches Spanish to English speakers at the Highwood Public Library and Community Center.
The verdict is in on the former litigator, and it’s guilty—of living a selfless life. “I was very fortunate,” says Boyd, a Wilmette native and New Trier East High School graduate who, during his years as a lawyer, tutored youths living in Cabrini- Green Homes. “I had an idyllic upbringing in a traditional household, with parents (William and Janet) who were super involved in their children’s lives. And I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunities I had while growing up. On my dad’s side, my grandfather was a Chicago principal, and my grandmother was a teacher in the city. My dad’s family was community-minded.”
One of his Cabrini-Green tutees emerged as a state trooper, and another wound up as a construction worker. The third became a gangbanger.
“Two out of three,” he says.
“I care about people, the environment, anything that promotes good, sound living, and giving opportunities to those who don’t have them. If there’s a way to help strengthen a community, I’ll get behind it.”
No wonder Highland Park Community Foundation (HPCF) Chairman of the Board of Directors Betsy Brint tapped Boyd, along with Arabella Advisors Founder and Senior Managing Director Eric Kessler (a Highland Park native living in Washington, D.C.), to help determine how to distribute the funds raised for the victims of last year’s July 4th parade mass shooting in Highland Park.
The HPCF established the Highland Park Shooting Response Fund and the Together Highland Park Unidos Committee to manage the donor distribution process. A total of $5.8 million was raised, with $5.2 million allocated to individual claimants and $580,000 to community organizations that provided mental health and other services for impacted community members.
Boyd contacted Kenneth Feinberg before he went to work with Kessler. Feinberg had served as the special master of the U.S. government’s September 11th Compensation Fund.
“We sought Ken’s help,” Boyd says. “Eric and I were administrators. And Betsy was our fearless leader.”
Boyd, the teen, was a leader—a varsity soccer captain specifically—in his senior season at New Trier East HS and served in the same capacity as a senior at Middlebury College in Vermont. But basketball was his main sport during his middle school years because American Youth Soccer Association (AYSO) teams didn’t exist back then.
He dribbled a basketball, as a shooting guard, for a team named the Sabres for three seasons.
One of the team’s coaches?
“I loved sports when I was young, and I loved that my dad, a successful businessman, found the time to coach me,” says Boyd, who’s still an avid soccer fan.
Bruce’s future wife, Michigander Beth, was a lawyer on the other side of a deposition in one of his cases when they first met in 1987 in New York City. Bruce had graduated magna cum laude with a degree in political science from Middlebury, before earning his law degree from the University of Chicago. He also studied business at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Bruce and Beth got married in 1989 and raised a son, Tyler, and a daughter, Jessie, in a house two blocks from where they live today in Highland Park (“Our adult house,” Mr. Boyd says). Both played soccer as youngsters. Tyler now lives in Missouri, and Jessie calls Denver home.
Bruce stepped away from the courtroom for good in his early 30s.
Beth—who owned Highwood-based Gallery A+D, by Wiley Designs, LLC for about three years—is president of the board of trustees at Ragdale, the nonprofit artists’ residency program and community in Lake Forest.
“Beth and I are recovering lawyers,” Bruce cracks.