Skip to content

Perspectives on the Heights: Wayne Budd

Wayne Budd, '63. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)

By Reid Oslin | Chronicle Staff

Published: Feb. 28, 2013

When Wayne Budd ’63 arrived at Boston College for freshman orientation in September of 1959, he learned he was one of only three African-Americans in the entering class.

The son of the first black police officer in Springfield, Mass. — a highly respected law enforcement professional who rose through the ranks to become a department captain — Budd was unfazed by disparity of people of color on a campus that was, at the time, removed from the big social movements and upheavals that came to define the 1960s. He went on to become president of his senior class, an honor that empowered him to introduce poet Robert Frost to the undergraduate body when the famed writer visited campus in 1963.

Since graduating with a degree in economics, Budd — now senior counsel in the litigation department of Boston law firm Goodwin Proctor — has pursued an impressive career in the legal and corporate worlds, highlighted by service in the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and senior management roles at the Bell Atlantic Corporation (now Verizon) and John Hancock Financial Services Inc. He’s also served BC as a University Trustee and adjunct Law School faculty member, and by establishing the Budd Family Scholarship to assist worthy students to share in the University’s education experience.

Recently, Budd took some time out to recall his BC experiences for Chronicle correspondent Reid Oslin.

How did you decide to attend Boston College?

I went to a Catholic high school [Cathedral High in Springfield] and the nuns would push those going on to college toward Catholic schools. Between my junior and senior years of high school, I was working for a camp for the disabled out in Westfield, Mass., and I met a man who was disabled himself but was also a “Double Eagle,” both undergrad and law school. He was always gushing about the great experience he had at BC. I thought that living and going to school in Boston would be great idea. The combination that BC was Catholic and in Boston sold me.

What was Boston College like 50 years ago?

It was a much different place back then. First of all, it was overwhelmingly white. In the whole class of 1963 — all of the schools — there was just myself and two other students of color. For the four years that I was there, there were no African-American varsity athletes in any sport at BC. I lived in the dorms, and I am going to say that no more than a third of my class lived on campus. We had mandatory Mass twice each week; there were curfews and mandatory lights out at night; you wore a coat and tie to class.

I was elected class president one year, which I figured was a pretty good honor. Robert Frost came to BC and I had the privilege of introducing him to the student body.  There was a picture in the yearbook of me presenting him with an opera cape following the presentation that he made. That was quite a thrill. He gave me a book of poems he had signed.

There were mandatory classes in theology and philosophy all four years, mandatory arts classes in music or fine arts. A lot of the curriculum was mandates, with electives in your majors. Everybody in the College of Arts and Sciences was a philosophy minor.

When I came in as a freshman, there were no women in the business school — which we called CBA at the time — and no women in the College of Arts and Sciences. Our class was used as an experiment to bring women into A&S. There were four women who entered with our class. They were great classmates, they were all in the Honors Program, and all four graduated with honors. At the end of four years, the experiment was declared to be a failure [laughter]. I don’t know when women finally went back into A&S, but I do know there were four women in the A&S Class of 1963. I always found that to be very, very curious.

I had some great teachers: John Norton in English, Don White in economics, Gerald Ford in philosophy and Fr. William Leonard in senior theology. I got a very good education at Boston College.

What was the atmosphere on campus like during the “changing times” of the 1960s?

It was a time of change, for sure, but we at BC really didn’t get too involved in that. The protests against the war really hadn’t started yet and there was no involvement there.  As far as civil rights go, that was going on, but the focus wasn’t so much in Boston or in Massachusetts as it was in the South. While there was some discussion about it, there really wasn’t any organized activity at BC during that time that I can recall. We really didn’t get involved in that very much.

That era — and I have thought about this over the years — was just before student activism was really coming on, and the fact that Boston College was a relatively conservative place, it just wasn’t in the forefront. The only thing I remember of a “student protest” was when we had a pretty good football team in my senior year and there was a decision made — I believe by Cardinal Richard Cushing — not to let BC go to the Gotham Bowl in New York City. A group of hundreds of students went down [to the Archdiocesan Chancery, across Commonwealth Avenue] to protest the decision.

By today’s standards, it would be totally innocuous, but that was the BC of the day.

What led you to a career in law?

I had an interesting experience with law school. I had applied to three law schools and was admitted to all of them. At Boston College, Fr. [Robert] Drinan was the dean and was very hot on my going to BC. He provided a scholarship and the opportunity to be a resident assistant in the dorms. Boston University offered me a little bit of a scholarship. Interestingly, I also got accepted to Georgetown. I asked Georgetown if I could be a resident assistant there and they said, “We don’t think so. We have never had negroes doing that.” That was in the spring of 1963.

To show you the twists and turns that life takes, I was also in ROTC [as a BC undergraduate]. I did well, and was going to be a Distinguished Military Graduate. I was going to take my military commission, defer my service to go to law school, and then go in the military. Near the end of my senior year, I had one more physical to take and went over to the old Chelsea Naval Hospital. They told me, “You have a bad knee, you can’t be commissioned.” I was, all of a sudden, no longer required to do military service.

At the same time, there was a guy named Jack Joyce who worked in the BC Placement Office and Ford Motor Company was recruiting at BC. When they came, they asked “Do you have any negroes? We are trying to recruit, or at least interview, negroes.” That was the term of the day. Jack told them “Well there’s this one guy, but I know you can’t get him. He’s going to law school.”

I had just been relieved of my military service and I wanted to go to law school, but I figured I wasn’t going to become a lawyer. Coming from Springfield, I never had any role models of people who looked like me who were successful lawyers. I figured this would be a chance to go to work, and if I wanted to go to law school I could go at night.

I did get a job offer from Ford. So I went down to see Fr. Drinan, whom I had gotten to meet when the Law School hosted a reception for Robert Frost after he had spoken to the students; he knew me and liked me. I told him about the Ford offer and going to law school at night. He said, “That is absolutely the worst idea I have ever heard in my life. But if that is what you are going to do, go to Wayne State.”

 I went there on his advice. It was rigorous. I worked and went to law school five nights a week for four years. My goal was to go back to Springfield, but when I got back, I couldn’t readily get a job there, so I stayed in Boston and the rest is history.

Where does BC fit in your life?

Of all of the things that I have had a chance to do throughout the course of my career — and I have been extraordinarily fortunate — as I think about it, there has been a “touch” of Boston College everywhere I went.  Doors were opened, opportunities were presented, and I have always felt that people I went to school with — Jack Connors was in my class, Sam Gerson was in my class, and a number of others who have remained my good friends over the years – the fellow alums, the people at the school, the Father Monans of the world, that provided assistance and opened doors for me. I can’t think of anything that I had a chance to do in my professional career, when somewhere, lurking about, was my affiliation with Boston College. I love the school.

You would be amazed how many people think so highly of the school. I would like to say to the younger alumni that their talents and skills have increased the value of my Boston College degree. My thoughts of the school are very, very positive. We established the Budd Family Scholarship there. We consider ourselves a “BC Family” and I am very grateful for it. I’m a big fan of Boston College.