Three things are constant in the life of a student at Western Carolina University, so declares a recent post on WCU’s Facebook page — parking tickets, fees and “Brian Boyer welcoming you back for the semester.”
It’s a sentiment that may explain why Boyer, a WCU residential living case manager, was invited to the royal wedding of two WCU graduates last month in Monaco: Louis Ducruet and Marie Chevallier. Ducruet is the son of Princess Stephanie of Monaco and Daniel Ducruet. His grandparents are the late Princess Grace of Monaco (the former American movie star Grace Kelly) and the late Prince Rainier Grimaldi III of Monaco, the second longest serving monarch in Europe. Chevallier’s parents are Jaques Chevallier and Elisabeth Boudong-Joubert.
At 6 feet 4 ½ inches tall with a charisma to match, Boyer is a beacon of sorts for many WCU students, with a gravitational pull that few can resist, especially new students or those from other countries looking for a little stability while they get their footing on what is new territory for most of them. For Ducruet and his then-girlfriend, Chevallier of Nice, France, Boyer proved to be the lighthouse they needed to navigate and thrive in such new environs, while maintaining a sense of anonymity and privacy.
In an email from his home in Monaco, Ducruet, whose first language is French, said he had a good feeling about Boyer the first time they met, and they quickly became friends. “I knew I could trust him since he always helped me or gave me advice when I needed it, and I saw that he was exactly the same with everyone else and that it was not only toward me, which made me realize that he is a truly nice person,” Ducruet said.
Boyer, who has worked at WCU for 16 years, said his friendship with Ducruet and Chevallier grew organically as it did with other members of WCU’s international students group, of which Ducruet and Chevallier were active participants. “I work for residential living, so my primary focus is on on-campus students, but it’s not exclusive. I don’t turn people away,” Boyer said. “One of the things I do is go and speak to the international students every semester. I just tell them who I am and what I do. What’s interesting is some years I really connect with the internationals and some years I don’t.”
To say he connected with Ducruet and Chevallier’s international group could be an understatement. They liked him so much they insisted he serve as their club soccer adviser, although he knew nothing about soccer. “Louis and Marie’s group was particularly close, like very, very close, and they just would pull me in, like ‘Hey, come to lunch’,” Boyer said. “And that’s just how it started. Louis ended up taking my class, the 'Band of Brothers,' which is a leadership course. We were already pretty close, but then we got really close through that class.”
So much so that in May of 2016, five months after Ducruet graduated from WCU, he invited Boyer to Monaco for the Monaco Grand Prix, one of the world’s premier motor racing events. Boyer spent two weeks with Ducruet at his apartment. “Louis knew that I was a really big racing fan and a NASCAR fan, so he was like, ‘You need to see some real racing’,” Boyer said.
Ducruet and Chevallier often helped Boyer serve food at Sylva’s local soup kitchen, the Community Table, which Boyer staffs every Friday. “Louis served ribs on a record-breaking Friday,” Boyer said. “We served 222 meals and Louis said he never wanted to see another rib for the rest of his life because it was so insane. But we did it, and it was awesome.”
Ducruet agreed that his and Chevallier’s interactions with the local community made their time at WCU worth it. “I was surprised by the environment and the kindness of people in the area,” Ducruet said. "When you are an international student, it is not easy every day, but at Western, I found the help I needed easily. I found that Americans are very outgoing, which makes it easier for internationals to feel comfortable.”
Boyer wasn’t the only Catamount at Ducruet’s wedding. A number of the royal couple’s international friends from WCU also attended the event, which was held at the Cathedral Notre Dame Immaculee of Monaco, where Ducruet’s grandparents are buried. It was important, Ducruet said, for his and Chevallier’s college friends to be there. “Those people became close friends, and that is why we wanted to have them around us for such an intimate moment. It was important for us,” he said. “We wanted Brian around us for this special moment, because even if we are far from each other, we think about him and he will continue to be our friend.”
Ducruet’s sentiments don’t surprise Boyer’s colleagues at WCU. “When you deal with students, it would be great to shake a magic wand and help a bunch of them all at the same time,” said Keith Corzine, assistant vice chancellor for campus services, who has known Boyer since Boyer began working at WCU in 2003. “The truth is, it’s one interaction with one individual at a time. That’s where the Boyer factor comes in. He is patient enough and genuine enough not to fail them. Brian Boyer is someone people can trust and who will help them to succeed.”
Boyer confesses he didn’t know Louis was THE Louis Ducruet of Monaco royalty for the first three months he knew him; he was just Louis from the club soccer team. It wasn’t until Ducruet gave Boyer a hug during lunch one day that he was made aware of Ducruet’s lineage by one of Boyer’s lunch mates. “I was totally floored,” Boyer said. But it didn’t matter, Boyer said, because he and Ducruet already had formed a friendship.
“My friendship with him has never been about his family history,” Boyer said. “It is undeniably cool, no way around that. It is cool, his history and his family, but it doesn’t have anything to do with he and I being close.”
So, how did Ducruet and Chevallier end up at WCU? They wanted to see the “real" America and have new experiences, and the university’s sport management program has a good reputation internationally, Ducruet said. “North Carolina is more rural and had a lot of nature around the university. That was a big point for me,” Ducruet said. “I don't think I would have appreciated my journey if I had stayed in a big city.”
Ducruet, who earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management in 2015, works as the assistant to the vice president and general manager of AS Monaco Football Club. Chevallier, who now goes by Marie Ducruet since her marriage, graduated from WCU in August of 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. She works for the Société des Bains de Mer (SBM) as an event project manager for the Casinos of Monaco.
Ducruet said his and his wife’s time at WCU was life changing and something they will never forget. “We changed by becoming more mature. Living far from home helps to make your mind and spirit stronger,” Ducruet said. “We also took some habits from there and we became more open-minded and outgoing to people. We keep also the proudness of Western and we kept some goodies from the university. We also really enjoyed the school spirit of Western. All students are proud of their university, and they showed it through the sports teams and the marching band.”
Oh, about that wedding. Boyer said it was beautiful and intimate and elegant, all the things that Louis and Marie represent. “They just complement each other so well. When they’re apart, when they’re together, they are just so in sync with each other,” he said. “It was a very emotional ceremony. There were only 200 people at the wedding. It was quite intimate. It was just a celebration of them, and that was how it should have been. And they did things the way they wanted to, which was wonderful to see. It was truly about them, the entire weekend. It was really remarkable.”
Corzine said he wasn’t surprised the colleague he calls Boyer was invited to Princess Grace’s grandson’s wedding. Boyer’s phone is always buzzing, Corzine said, and it’s usually students. “I’m surprised it doesn’t blow up,” he said, only half jokingly. But there is something else, Corzine acknowledges, and it’s just beyond the norm. “Boyer’s job is to reach people, and he does that. When we think about matching up skill sets to who we are as individuals with what our work is, I would argue that in the over 30 years I’ve been doing this, very few people have ever matched their personality and skills with their job like Boyer does.”
Boyer acknowledges that he feels a special affinity with students, whether they live on campus or across the street in an apartment as Ducruet did. He even believes a higher power is at work, tapping his shoulder at times when certain students need his attention. He doesn’t question it. He just responds. “I work about 80 hours a week. I love what I do. It’s a calling for me,” Boyer said. “I feel like for anybody, when they are where they’re supposed to be, doing what they’re supposed to be doing, great things are going to happen.”
It’s 3 a.m. in Monaco and the royal wedding reception for Ducret and Chevallier, both 26, is going strong. People are dancing and reveling in the warmth and wonder of the young couple’s wedding. Boyer is tired, ready for bed, but he feels a shoulder tap. Yes, one of those. A boy asks Boyer if he has time to talk. They convene to a quiet corner, where Boyer, dressed to the nines in his brand new tuxedo, listens to the teenager talk about his life.
“So, he and I talked for the last two hours of the reception and just chatted about everything,” Boyer said. “Basically, he’ll be fine. He’s 18. He’s getting to live his dream. I told him to stop making life harder than it has to be. I told him he wasn’t supposed to know it all right now. I told him to just enjoy it.”
During this interview for this story with Boyer at WCU’s Starbucks, the very boy Boyer is talking about, the boy in Europe whose parents own a circus, sends Boyer a text. Boyer looks at his phone, which does not explode, and then looks up. “We’re still in touch,” Boyer said. “I can’t not work.”