Campus Colleagues: Sherry Boyd
College of Engineering and Computer Science’s Sherry Boyd says she misses seeing everyone on campus. If you’ve met Sherry before, you know she means it — and looks forward to catching up with you when the fall semester begins.
Sherry Boyd is the Mechanical Engineering administrative assistant and Automotive Systems Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering graduate programs coordinator. Whew! That is a big title — the only thing bigger is her personality. Always upbeat with a can-do flair, Sherry has fun Zoom screen savers that she seasonally changes, she stays on top of pop culture and recommends the latest Marvel shows, and shares stories about her colleagues and students like they are family.
She has been on campus since the late 1990s and has experienced a lot of change. Her flexible, friendly nature keeps her focused on what — and who — really matters. “People ask when I plan to retire. My answer is not as long as I can be helpful to our students.”
Sherry recently chatted about her 20-plus years at UM-Dearborn, her two new family additions (nearly identical kittens!), and why it’s good to be open to change.
Question: You are a mom of six (and grandma of 21). Any family highlights you’d like to share?
Sherry Boyd: I got two kittens — they are so stinkin’ cute — for Mother’s Day. My daughter-in-law works for Cass County and sees the animals who come into the shelter. I’ve kept busy, but the pandemic brought on some loneliness since I couldn’t see my family and friends like I was used to. I agreed that a cat or kitten was a good idea. And I got two! Their names are Hamish Macbeth and Harris Macbeth. Hamish is named after the police officer in M. C. Beaton mystery novel series set in the Scottish Highlands. Harris is a nice Scottish name too. They seemed to go well together. These brothers really do look exactly alike — except Harris has a little knot on his tail. As I’m getting to know their personalities, it’s getting easier to tell them apart. Hamish is a bit more adventurous.
Q: You are adventurous too. As people start to travel more, do you have any advice?
Sherry: Be open to spontaneity. You don’t need to plan everything. If something unplanned happens, look for the positive. Sometimes the best parts of an experience are the most unexpected. My daughter and I went to Scotland — if you are noticing a theme, I’m 48% Scottish according to a 23andMe ancestry test — a few years ago. While I was driving in the Valley of Glencoe, our car got two flat tires because I accidentally went off the paved road a little. We tried to call for help, but our cell phones didn’t have reception.
I noticed a farm house up the road and asked to use the phone. Turns out, the house was from the 1600s and was part of Scotland’s National Trust. The man living there told us about the story of the MacDonald family killed in the Massacre of Glencoe (1692) because they wouldn’t plead allegiance to the English monarchs of the time. His wife told us some of the family survived because they hid in a cave up in the mountains. She then pointed it out. If we weren't forced to stop, I never would have noticed the cave or met these wonderful people who have a strong tie to Scottish Highlands history. Sometimes stressful or upsetting experiences lead to discoveries or moments of awe. Life is like that.
Q: You mentioned how the pandemic has brought on some moments of loneliness. How did you handle that?
Sherry: Walks, Zoom lunches with coworkers, books and uplifting tv shows. I really liked The Mandalorian. Of course, Baby Yoda was adorable and is a draw. But it’s more than that — I like to root for the underdog and the idea of a redeemer. The Mandalorian, when he realized the people who hired him were behaving nefariously, stood up for what he believed was right. He protected a living creature who was vulnerable and did what he could to connect Grogu (Baby Yoda) to someone who would help him find and use his gifts. It’s a reminder that we all have gifts — and we need to support each other as we find and develop them. If you have Disney+, I recommend it.
Q: You’ve been on campus for 20-plus years and you’ve mentioned that you don’t plan to retire soon. Why do you love what you do?
Sherry: Years ago, I got a call at work that my grandmother, whom I was very close with, died. I told my then-supervisor (Mechanical Engineering Professor) P.K. Mallick that I needed to leave. His response was: ‘Do you need me to drive you?’ That kindness will always stay with me.
The people I work with genuinely care about each other. And the students I work with are like my kids. I’m already a mom of six, so what’s a few more? We all have bad days, but do the best you can to be kind, understanding and supportive to the people you come in contact with — you never know what they are going through and the impact you may have on someone’s life. Our International students have gotten calls that a family member was diagnosed with cancer half a world away. Our working students often juggle aging parents and/or children. A little support can go a long way. As long as I’m able, I want to be the person who will cheer you on, just listen or offer that ride in a time of need.