Bachelor of Science in Law, University of Minnesota, 1949; Bachelor of Laws, University of Minnesota, 1951; Master of Laws, University of Michigan, 1952; Doctor of Juridical Science, University of Michigan, 1962.
He is currently on the faculty of the University of Iowa College of Law as the Rawlings/Miller Professor of Law and President Emeritus. He served as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman from 1945 to 1947. He went on the University of Minnesota, where he earned his B.S.L in 1949, and received his LL.B. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1951.
He was admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1951. He worked as an Associate attorney at Minneapolis law firm Dorsey & Whitney from 1952 to 1954. After a brief time in private practice, Boyd entered academia, teaching law at The University of Iowa College of Law from 1954 to 1964.
During this time he earned his S.J.D. from Michigan in 1962. His career as an academic administrator began in 1964, when he served as Associate Dean of the College of Law before becoming Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties for The University of Iowa, a position he held from 1964 to 1968. In 1969, Boyd succeeded Howard Bowen as the fifteenth President of The University of Iowa.
He served until 1981, and was eventually followed by James O. Freedman. He served as Chairman of the American Association of Universities from 1979 to 1980. After ending his tenure as a university president, Boyd served as the President of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago from 1981 to 1996.
He returned to Iowa in 1996 to teach at the College of Law again. A central focus of his return to Iowa was creating the Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center (which became the Larned A Waterman Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center after a significant gift from the Waterman family). He taught courses which supported learning in the nonprofit area.
In 2002 he served as interim president, holding the role between 2002 and 2003 until being succeeded by David J. Skorton. After serving as Acting President, he returned to teaching as the Rawlings-Miller Professor of Law in 2003. He also was the Chester Phillips Research Fellow at the Tippie College of Business at Iowa from 2003 to 2006.
Willard is also a Trustee of the Roy J. Carver Trust. The Boyd Law Building at the University of Iowa is named for him.
Board of directors National Federation Humanities Couns., Women of the West Museum. Chairbd. directors Harry S. Truman Library. Institute, since 1997, chair Illinois Arts Alliance.
Past member National Council on Arts. Advisory board member Metropolitan Opera. Past advanced.com. Getty Center for Education in Arts, Illinois Humanities Council, Illinois Arts Council, Chicago Cultural Affairs Board.
Member American Bar Association (member section legal education and admission to bar chairman 1980-1981, county member 1975-1982, committee social labor and industrial legislations 1963-1965,chairman 1965-1966, chairman county of section on legal education and admission), American Association Universities (chairman), National Commission Accrediting (president), Iowa Bar Association.
Married Susan Kuehn, August 28, 1954. Children: Elizabeth Kuehn, Willard Lee, Thomas Henry.