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IN THE SPIRIT: Former UND leader recalls spiritual journey

Naomi Dunavan1 / 3
Bob and Dawn Boyd with their grandchildren, 10-year-old granddaughters Elise (left) and Ava, and 4-year-old grandson, Parker.2 / 3
Dr. Robert "Bob" Boyd holds his two books, "Words Learned from a Spiritual Journey," published in 2013 and "Words Learned From Living," published in 2010.3 / 3

Everyone's journey, be it the walk of life or the path of faith, can be greatly enriched if another person treads alongside.

Someone like Robert "Bob" Boyd.

It would be impossible to count all the scholars Bob inspired during his 32-year career with Student and Outreach Services at UND. Knowing him, he remembers each one.

Since his retirement as vice president emeritus in 2011, Bob's been focusing on yet a younger generation -- his grandchildren. He and his wife, Dawn, have three: twins Ava and Elise Karlstad, 10, and Parker Reis, 4. With October comes a baby brother for Parker.

"As you grow older you actually begin to believe in wisdom," Bob said. "A spiritual journey is often helped by having an advisor, a mentor or someone you respect. My hope is that my grandchildren will see me in that light, and that my journey will be helpful to them."

Bob sat down with Ava, Elise and Parker to show and tell and read to them his recently published book, "Words Learned from a Spiritual Journey." As Dawn reads it she says, "I live with the man, but I'm always amazed at the depth of his thinking."

On the pages are vignettes from the heart of Bob, which speak of the things he's felt and encountered and experienced in his walk of faith. They stem from what he's learned as a lifelong active United Methodist who, in 1967, had a full scholarship to attend Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Seminary didn't happen, however, as Uncle Sam called and Bob was drafted. Perhaps a thought on one page takes him back to the years he and Dawn were stationed at Fort Polk, La.

It is this: "Our darkest hours often are the ones that help us see most clearly our need for something greater than who we are."

The book is made even more captivating by the beautiful pictures on every page taken around Shoreham, Detroit Lakes and Stillwater, Minn., as well as Hawaii.

They are the work of Bob and Dawn's son-in-law, Dr. Ryan Karlstad, an orthopedic surgeon in Stillwater whose avocation is photography. Ryan is married to the Boyds' daughter Amy and they are the parents of Ava and Elise.

Another Boyd daughter, Tiffany, and her husband Matt Reis, are Parker's parents. They live in Minneapolis.

Amy and Tiffany have given copies of the book to friends, which "solicited more," Bob said. Even though "it was intended for the grandchildren, I'm thrilled if people find it helpful."

On one page is a silhouette of Ava and Elise holding hands and seeming to dance within the moon. Opposite is Parker gleefully throwing crisp fall leaves into the wind. Here Bob has written: "In the intellectual pursuit of understanding God, we are reminded that Jesus used the faith of a child as the example for us all."

Among other vignettes:

• "Guidance from God can be understood best as the result of a partnership -- God providing the tools to discern what is right and we using those tools to do what is right."

• "Worthiness is not required for God to love us or forgive us; what is required is our willingness to accept both."

• "God's unconditional love applies equally to us and those who are 'different' from us."

• "Faith grows more from the doubts we have than from the 'absolutes' we never question."

• "Having faith does not mean your intellect or reasoning is unimportant; faith, instead, is strengthened by the exercise of the mind God has given us."

The photo spread across the middle of the book is of a sanctuary filled with oaken pews in a chapel on Lake Melissa. Over summer, a minister comes from Detroit Lakes to lead worship there. "That little chapel is absolutely packed on Sunday morning," Bob said.

The caption here is: "As Christians we are often the flawed messengers bringing the perfect message."

Bob doesn't want to or ever intended to profit from this book. The price is dictated entirely by Blurb, the publisher. Cost is $23.59 for soft cover; $35.59 image wrap and $33.59 dust cover (both hard covers). For a copy go to

Not first book

When Bob was vice president of student and outreach services, he sent out an electronic message to everyone in his divisional council on a weekly basis.

"In essence, it was my way of touching them with what I was doing," he said. "At the end of that message, I would write a saying that grew out of that experience. It was an insight."

For example: "Being tolerant doesn't mean you compromise your principles; however, it does mean you recognize that others have a right to another point of view."

As he anticipated retirement, Bob pondered what he could give the 30-some people in his council as a parting gift. With help, he resurrected all the sayings he had sent out.

Unbeknownst to his council, Bob was contemplating putting them in a book he could give them as a parting keepsake.

So it was that in 2010, Shutterfly published, "Words Learned From Living." Son-in-law Ryan took the photos for that one as well. Anyone wanting a copy should contact Bob and he will order it.

The eyes of a speckled owl stare at you from the cover of this book. "He sits right outside Amy and Ryan's home and hoots and drives them batty," Bob said. "He's a beautiful creature. It couldn't have been a better picture -- an owl and a sense of wisdom."

On one page are the words: "Justice is not a product of one righteous opinion; rather it is the product of differing opinions reconciled by discovering what is right."

As he thinks back, "I can almost pinpoint the experiences I had that week that led me to write that," Bob said. "We were going through really heavy stuff having to do with the (Fighting Sioux) logo. People on both sides were so convinced that their viewpoint was the only one that thoughtful people could have. It prevented conversation that could have led to better understanding. Out of that came that saying."

Bob, who grew up in Rock Lake, N.D., and Dawn, who hailed from Sheyenne, N.D., met at Minot State University in the 1960s. Dawn is a retired speech/language pathologist.

Grand Forks won them when Bob, who while teaching in Mohall and Minot also served as a lay pastor in several North Dakota towns, came to UND to complete his master's degree over three summers. He returned for his doctorate and then was hired by UND.

Before his retirement, Bob was interviewed by UND's Kimberly Porter and later gifted with a green bound volume with gold lettering titled, "A Tribute to Bob's Life of Service." His response: "I was floored."

He wonders "what if" he had gone to seminary after the military. "I had to make a decision," he said. "For whatever reason, I thought I could make as great a contribution as a lay person as I could a pastor.

I have been very lucky in many ways. I have a passion for UND. One, because of the way it has treated me. It allowed me to be entrepreneurial -- and to be forgiven. And two, for what I saw UND doing for students. I saw them coming from Oakes and Belfield and leaving as physicians, attorneys, artists and entrepreneurs. North Dakota is a great place and it's getting better."

That's true, of course, because of people like Bob Boyd who stayed in his state -- first touching the lives of students and now those of his beloved grandchildren.

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