Benjamin E. Boyce '63

Ben Boyce was one of the original five African American students admitted in the Class of 1963. He was an amazing fellow who unfortunately was not well understood by his classmates nor by me. I recall knowing him basically during our freshman and sophomore years since I believe he left Amherst during or shortly after our second year. I recall he struggled, like a lot of us, with the Math-Physics freshman year curriculum as well as second year Economics but he passed.

While we were not terribly close buddies, we had several things in common, among them was a love of jazz and blues music. In fact I helped defray some of my college expenses by leading a jazz/rock/blues band during sophomore thru my senior years. During sophomore year, I discovered Ben Boyce had a terrific voice. In fact he sounded very much like a young Otis Redding, able to hit all those high notes with real "soul" before "soul" became part of our vernacular. In no time, he was part of our band, our lead vocalist, which played most of the Amherst frat parties as well as occasional gigs at UMass, Smith, and Mt. Holyoke.  Ben Boyce was quite a showman, dancer, and had all the moves that would make him a star. Recognizing this we featured him up front and gave him the stage name "Dombala" which went along with his penchant for dressing in African garb with his clean shaven bald head. He understood how to entertain an audience. In fact  he was ahead of his time.

During those days we got to discuss many things up in my room on second floor of Valentine Hall. Ben, as I recall, was troubled by things. Maybe problems at home maybe problems with certain classes. I never knew for sure. Except by my junior year, I was shocked to learn that he had dropped out of Amherst. Not only did we miss him in the band, but we missed his wit and engaging personality.

May you rest in peace "Dombala" and keep sitting on the dock of the bay.

Leon Gibbs ’63