Originally posted on November 17, 2009 by Jay Buckner
What kind of socks does a physics major wear? Well, if you’re Tommy Boykin, there are two kinds of socks in the world: dress socks and black Nike athletic socks, specifically the running type that are engineered for each foot. On laundry day Tommy dutifully matches right with left, mashes them into a ball and puts them in the top drawer of his dresser in Blue Ridge, a residence hall at Berea.
When you first meet Tommy, he’s likely to ask your opinion on something like if you think he should be a research physicist or a motivational speaker. While an unlikely start to a first conversation, it’s the kind of thing you can expect from Tommy: a thoughtful question asked with a sincere desire to hear what you have to say. You can also expect Tommy to smile. Tommy is always smiling or about to smile. In fact, when you ask him about it, he smiles, and says, “I choose to approach everything in life with a smile.”
Tommy never has a bad day. Not that he leads a charmed life; he just always chooses to see the positive in everything. Like the day he had both a physics exam and a calculus exam. Faced with two major tests in two difficult classes, most students would redline on stress, pulling all nighters, eating junk food, sharing their fears and anxieties with anyone who will listen.
‘I am unwilling to allow someone else to define for me what I am, and am not, capable of.’
But not Tommy. He was smiling that day. Did he study? Of course. But he also chose to get 8 hours of sleep and eat a good breakfast. And there were no words of worry that morning from Tommy, only a thoughtful smile and a vote of confidence in himself: “I know that I am ready.”
Tommy carries a heavy load of courses for a freshman. His first semester schedule includes physics and calculus, along with core education courses—called “GSTR’s” at Berea. In his carefully planned free time, he also participates in the Contemporary Percussion ensemble, runs as an “unofficial” member of the Berea College Cross Country team, and participates in the Student Judicial Board. His short-term goal is to transform his love for drumming into a position with the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, based in Rosemont, Illinois.
Tommy was not always the greatest drummer, either. In fact in the 6th grade, he was strongly encouraged to play just about anything else. But Tommy’s heart was set on the drums and with his Mom’s support and thousands of hours of practice, he became the section leader of the Homewood drum line in Birmingham. This fall, he’ll audition with the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps for the third time. “I’ve just missed making the corps twice, but I’m praying that this is my year.”
Long-term, Tommy hopes to earn his Ph.D. in physics and either teach or work for NASA.