Prior to the pandemic, our plan was to focus the spring 2020 issue of Saint Ignatius Magazine around the theme of family. As the magazine’s planning stages merged with COVID disruption, it became apparent that another story had a more urgent need of being told—about what was essential for our school community to keep going.
But family remains essential. This terrific profile by longtime writer and Saint Ignatius Magazine contributor Gay Eyerman was written for that spring issue. It features Kevin O’Boyle ’71, an alumnus whose life embodied what it means to be a “family man.” Tragically, O’Boyle died in an accident this summer before we were able to talk about his remarkable work in adoption and advocacy for children.
As we approach the time of year when families gather to give thanks, we want to give thanks and recognition for a man whose Jesuit education compelled him to live his life for others.
Here is the story of a true and genuine family man: Kevin O’Boyle.
They say the Irish are some of the world’s greatest storytellers — and Kevin O’Boyle ’71 ranks among them. He tells a compelling life story of adversity, opportunity and good works. O’Boyle’s own dad was the son of Irish immigrants who came to Cleveland and died soon after arriving. Raised by aunts and uncles, his dad went on to marry and have four children of his own, with Kevin as the oldest.
At Ascension parish school, O’Boyle was at the top of his class with straight As. The principal called his parents to say O’Boyle should attend Saint Ignatius High School. Because the family couldn’t afford the tuition on his dad’s apprentice plumber salary, the principal arranged for a job at the school as sports equipment manager. Hardship turned into blessing, as O’Boyle developed deep friendships with priests and athletes and learned discipline and teamwork. He still counts his time at Saint Ignatius as one of the most formative chapters in his life.
Unable to afford college, O’Boyle became a driver for UPS, moved into a management role and within six years earned an executive staff position. In 1991 he was sent to Chicago’s south side as part of the UPS Community Internship Program to build awareness of diversity and poverty while creating job opportunities for low-income residents. It was there he met Fr. Dan Mallette, a former boxer and beloved salt-of-the earth priest who took in gang members and championed racial justice. O’Boyle counts Fr. Dan as the second most influential force in his life.
In 1989, O’Boyle and wife Mary Kay had adopted Sean, their biracial infant. Within three weeks, they discovered Mary Kay was pregnant with daughter Megan. But when the adoption agency called again, with a biracial baby girl in desperate need of a family – they adopted daughter Kaitlin and the family grew to five. In 1992, O’Boyle was transferred to Chicago and soon after, Mary Kay was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. UPS helped O’Boyle move back to Cleveland to care for his wife, who passed away 13 months later.
With his three young children, O’Boyle moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to run the UPS worldwide air hub with 8,000 employees, 1,000 management staff and 800 jets coming in daily. He met Carol on a blind date, they married, and he adopted her two sons, Eric and Tanner. In 2010 O’Boyle retired from a 34-year career with UPS as Corporate Transportation Training manager for locations around the world. “There’s only one thing that gave me the ability to do all that without a college education — and that was a Saint Ignatius education.”
The newest chapter in O’Boyle’s life is a fitting “man for others” epilogue. He works with children victimized by abuse or neglect as a trained but unpaid Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in partnership with Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court. As a CASA volunteer, he often advocates for a child over the course of a year or more, in a program proven to reduce further abuse or neglect and minimize future involvement with the child-welfare system. O’Boyle is also a board member with Child and Family Advocates of Cuyahoga County and recently named president of Ohio’s CASA state board.
“Of the 94,000 CASA volunteers nationwide, only 10 percent are males,” says O’Boyle. “I see many teenage boys who need male role models. Who better than Saint Ignatius guys? And CASA really needs sponsors like law firms,” says O’Boyle. He is thrilled to see Saint Ignatius develop The Welsh Academy for urban middle school boys and firmly believes, “When kids face adversity and we can give them an education, that’s powerful. Adversity builds traits you can’t teach.”