Deceased November 14, 2018
On Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, Benjamin Cary Boyden, loving son, brother, uncle and friend passed away at age 40 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Ben arrived at Amherst as a competitive soccer player with a keen intellect and a thoughtful, cool demeanor that revealed his California upbringing. Ben graduated from the Cate School in Carpinteria, Calif., in 1997, and came to Amherst with his frequent sidekick and comic foil, Ross Flournoy ’02. Ben Boyden and Ross’ friendship could have been taken from a Hollywood buddy movie. Ben was mature, athletic, fastidiously dressed, well-groomed and efficient in time management; Ross was, well, not all of those things.
Ben, after some initial skepticism, would forge deep friendships with his freshman year roommates Andrew “Chocolate” Epstein ’02 and Adam Vine ’01. Ben, Adam and Andrew shared and fostered their love of movies, and Ben particularly enjoyed Professor Cameron’s course on foreign cinema in his senior year. Ben and Adam together would later write a hilarious, and ribald, screenplay that will likely never win approval from the MPAA. Ben also wrote, directed and produced the short film Liberal Art with his friends and roommates from Hitchcock as a senior project. We believe it was Ben who had the great idea to employ the long and laconic lacrosse star Harlow Voorhees ’01 as our boom guy for that production. I remember Ben saying, “He’s quiet and comfortable running with a stick in his hands.” Genius. The movie also featured a cameo from Professor James Maraniss, describing Ben’s character (and hopefully not just Ben) as a “talentless idiot.”
Ben balanced being both a serious student and serious socializer remarkably well. He had a famous talent for reading textbooks and writing academic outlines in a dorm room full of friends who were watching TV, listening to music or talking about romantic frustrations. While deeply committed to his own education, Ben was always generous with his time and graciously provided advice and academic guidance to his peers, no matter what time of night his services were needed. And despite his academic success, Ben was exceptionally humble.
Ben might have ultimately admitted that he and his soccer teammate and fellow-Californian Gavin Back ’01 were trying too hard to resist what they perceived as the puritanical culture of Western Massachusetts upon arriving in the fall of 1997. I believe that both men, despite their aggressively aloof demeanor, sincerely appreciated the education they received and the friendships they made while at Amherst, even though their tans would begin to fade by late October.
Ben spent most of his professional career applying his Amherst education (majors in economics and sociology, magna cum laude) for Monitor (now Monitor Deloitte) as a strategy consultant, where Ben traveled the world and worked diligently trying to problem-solve for corporate clients. However, Ben also found spiritual nourishment from his travel and voracious consumption of literature, music and film, as well as lively debate with his old Amherst friends. Ben was particularly fond of David Foster Wallace ’85 and Bob Dylan, and they were both his frequent companions on many of Ben’s notoriously late nights.
Ben’s friends’ fondest memories of him include many laughs shared in late-night study sessions and discussions in Stearns, Stone or Hitchcock dormitories and shared meals of two of Ben’s favorites—Antonio’s Pizza and, of course, In-N-Out Burger. (Did I mention Ben was from California?)
Although Ben could be dogmatic in his dismissal of the illogical, irrational or uninformed, Ben was also self-effacing and empathetic to those around him. He received a lot of teasing for his attention to his (admittedly handsome) appearance and always took the ribbing graciously. Ben also enjoyed a good laugh and some mischief, and this may explain his unique charm that endeared him to the family members of his friends.
I can’t finish without acknowledging how much Ben loved his brother and sister and parents. And although his great-grandfather Frank Boyden 1902, grandfather John Boyden ’35, and great-uncle Theodore Boyden ’36 were likely also academic heavyweights while they were at Amherst, Ben capably filled their shoes while on campus. I know that Ben’s family was so proud of him, and I can’t imagine how much they will miss him.
For me, it was a gift to have a friend as well-rounded, generous and loyal as Ben Boyden. Ben, we will miss you terribly.
Myles Ranier ’01