James Boyd

College of Liberal Arts
Department of Philosophy
Appointed: 2001-2008
Email: [email protected]

  • B. A., Lawrence University
  • M.A., Ph.D., Northwestern University

Now retired from the University, Dr. Boyd’s career reflects the interconnectedness of his scholarly life with teaching. Since his first studies in India, he has sought to understand the world views of other religious/philosophical traditions, and to share that understanding with his students. Every research pursuit has its extension to the classroom. Students share with Professor Boyd his quest to comprehend the perspectives of those with whom he has studied: Hindu teachers in India, Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka, Zen teachers in Japan, Zoroastrian priests and scholars in India and Iran, and most recently, Shinto priests in Japan and the United States. Where possible, he brings his Asian teachers personally into his American classroom, emphasizing the seamlessness of the learning process. To enrich the cross-cultural exploration, he often uses music in his courses, drawing on his early musical training to encourage students to listen for different tones, harmonies and rhythms and relate them to the various concepts they are studying.

A central commitment in Professor Boyd’s teaching is sharing his scholarly expertise with public school teachers. With grants from both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Fulbright-Hays program, he has helped train over 100 teachers in Colorado and Wisconsin, working with them to introduce Asia in their classes. His interest in public education also led him to teach a community course in comparing Western and Asian philosophical traditions in 2004-2005.

For forty years, since his first experience living in South Asia, Dr. Boyd has followed his international passion to learn about other cultures, explore them by living and studying in Asia, write about them, lead groups of students and faculty on study tours to India, and share his questions and insights with students. At present, he is exploring the nature of ritual with his colleague Ron Williams, asking students to study ritual in contemporary America as well as elsewhere. Another current project is encouraging students and teachers to approach Japanese culture through the medium of Japanese anime film. For example, in a recent on-line article which analyzes Shinto perspectives in Hayao Miyazaki’s anime film “Spirited Away,” he demonstrates how Japanese culture is accessible to undergraduate students and teachers through this film.

Teaching Awards and Recognitions

  • Excellence in Teaching, 1971, 1981-82
  • Oliver P. Pennock University Distinguished Service Award, 1987
  • Phi Sigma Iota Award for the Promotion of International Understanding, 1983
  • Willard O. Eddy Teaching Award, 1995
  • ASCSU Teaching Excellence Award, 1999
  • University Distinguished Teaching/Scholar, 2001
  • Distinguished Service Award, Office of International Programs, 2004
  • Phi Beta Kappa, Lawrence University (1956)
  • Fulbright-Hays Awards to Banaras Hindu University,India, and Vidyodaya University, Sri Lanka (1963, 1969)
  • National Defense Education Act Asian Language Fellowship, University of Wisconsin (1964)
  • Rockefeller Dissertation Fellowship (1969)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Post Graduate Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania (1974)
  • American Institute of Indian Studies Fellowship, University of Bombay, India (1976)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Sponsorship of two Asian Institutes for Public School Teachers (1987, 1988)
  • American Philosophical Society Research Grants (1980, 1990)
  • Holder of the Numata Chair of Buddhist Studies, University of Calgary, Canada (1991)
  • Fulbright-Hays Group Study Abroad Projects to India ( 1990,1997,2001)
  • Visiting Scholar: Northwestern University, University of Shiraz, Iran,Harvard University, University of Pittsburgh (Semester at Sea, 1982, 1986,1992), Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka, Japan (1997,2002), University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2003)