The Magic Touch

Lucas Boyce ’12MBA is living proof of the power to shape one’s destiny.

by Jeffrey Billman | photo by Scott Cook

Lucas Boyce '12MBA

Soon after Lucas Boyce ’12MBA graduated from high school, his adoptive mother, Dorothy—the woman who’d raised him (along with five adopted siblings and about 35 foster siblings)—asked him two simple questions: What do you want to do? How will you get there? 

Lucas knew the answer to the first. He wanted to work at the White House, fly on Air Force One, and work for the Chicago Bulls.

None of those was likely. Lucas’ birth mom was an 18-year-old drug addict and prostitute living in Independence, Missouri. African American kids born of such circumstances aren’t expected to succeed. But Dorothy Boyce wasn’t about to let those circumstances dictate Lucas’ destiny, and she’d instilled that notion in him since he was small. Within a decade, he’d achieved all three goals—mostly. He worked in the White House. He flew on Air Force One. He didn’t end up working for the Bulls—but since 2008, he’s been employed by the Orlando Magic.

He elaborated on this in his memoir, Living Proof: From Foster Care to the White House and the NBA, published in 2011: “We’ve got to buy into what matters most; where we are going and the opportunity each of us have [sic] to shape our own destiny. Each of us were [sic] built for something more and I’m living proof of that fact.”

While attending the University of Central Missouri, Lucas was one of about 100 students nationwide to earn a White House internship—a résumé-building prize if ever there was one. He started a few months after 9/11, when the Bush White House was on war footing. But the president had other priorities too. In March 2002, the White House hosted an event on the South Lawn to promote USA Freedom Corps, a group designed to encourage community service. The photo op required volunteers, so White House staffers turned to their interns. Lucas was asked to trade his suit and tie for a T-shirt.

He had no way of knowing that this would be a life-changing experience. The photo op was with President George W. Bush. The two struck up a conversation—about life, about golf, about the swingset the president’s daughters played on during his father’s tenure in the White House—and something about Lucas stuck with the president. The next day, he called Lucas’ boss to inquire about him.

“That’s how I got my start,” Lucas says. When his internship ended, he returned to Missouri determined to finish his bachelor’s degree as quickly as possible and return to D.C. Lucas graduated on July 11, 2003, and was back in the White House a few days later, where he went to work on the president’s re-election campaign. After the election, he worked for the president’s inaugural committee, and from there transitioned to the vice president’s office. Later, he spent two years in the White House Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, tasked with both African American and professional sports outreach. It was in that capacity that yet another door opened for him.

At a White House event in September 2007, Lucas mentioned to a former basketball executive that he’d always wanted to work for an NBA team. That conversation led to Lucas leading a personal White House tour for, and eventually sending his résumé to, Joel Glass, the Orlando Magic’s vice president of communications. Eight months later, he was offered a job as director of community relations, multicultural insights, and government affairs, where he builds the team’s relationships with corporate partners and minorities in the community.

“Service in D.C., it’s really special,” Lucas says. “But I wanted to grow—to continue to get the education and experience that allows you to grow so you can go back as a press secretary or congressman or senator.”

Lucas’ decision to enroll in the Crummer Graduate School of Business was similarly future-minded. “The hope was [an MBA] would allow me to make the next step—to gain knowledge about business and servant leadership,” he says.

There, too, he excelled. In fact, Cornell Professor of Management Ronald Piccolo ’99MBA says Lucas’ analysis of the Magic’s strategies and culture was the gold standard for that assignment. “If anything [in his background] would have helped him,” Piccolo says, “it might have been his time in the political arena. Him having that exposure and experience in terms of negotiation and politics and persuasion and understanding policy—that was evident.”

Today, Lucas concedes, while he’s an “influencer” in the community, he’s not content to stay where he is forever. He wants to be an “influencer of influencers,” he says. Given his history, there is no reason to think he won’t get there.