May 16, 2009 — "A man," said the Renaissance thinker Leon Battista Alberti, "can do all things, if he will."
Alex Boyajian is a case in point. The soon-to-be graduate of the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce is an Echols scholar, Lawn resident and winner of the Alumni Association's prestigious Sky Alland Scholarship, given to a rising McIntire fourth-year who exemplifies leadership, achievement, enterprising spirit, humility and devotion.
He's also a prize-winning poet; an outstanding musician (you can check out his recently released album, "The Commencement"); the recent and dynamic president of U.Va.'s Oluponya record label; an active volunteer in the Charlottesville community and "big brother" to a local fourth-grader; and a soon-to-be tax accountant at accounting powerhouse KPMG.
"Alex is a remarkably capable and curious person," finance professor Mark White said. "I don't think he knows the meaning of the word 'can't.'"
Asked how he manages to balance so many – and such disparate – interests, Boyajian laughed. "I kind of enjoy the tension that exists between all these different things," he said. "I like to be able to look at the world from a lot of different perspectives."
But Boyajian said that everything he does – from producing music to poring over corporate tax forms – is governed by a rock-solid set of principles. Not only does there have to be "a sense of honesty and integrity" in everything he does, but he has to feel passionately about it – and he also has to be helping others.
Acting as president of Oluponya Records, for instance, Boyajian said he realized that while pursuing his passion for music, he could also act as a resource to the University community.
"I met so many talented students, and without Oluponya their songs wouldn't have been recorded, the lyrics they wrote wouldn't have been shared with anyone, and the genius of their talent would never have been made public," Boyajian said. "One of the best parts of the whole experience was gaining a greater understanding of how I could be a resource for others."
Boyajian said he plans to bring the same keen moral energy to his career in accounting; in fact, he relishes the idea of tackling the ethical challenges that await him.
"At McIntire and at U.Va., the idea of honor and integrity is really ingrained in you," he said. "But there's this added challenge that comes with graduating from McIntire: You don't have the convenience of being a philosopher discussing the hypothetical. In six months, I'll be out in the real world, making decisions that impact people."
Moreover, accounting has in recent years emerged as a particularly intriguing and important field.
"Enron happened during my first year of high school," he said. "And now, as I'm graduating from college, we're undergoing one of the worst collapses in the history of the financial sector. Both times, questions arose around the integrity and accuracy of accounting methods."
Boyajian said he likes the idea of going into a profession that will afford him the opportunity to make responsible decisions of far-reaching impact.
"It's nice to know that I'm graduating not only with the skills to do my job well, but also with the moral foundation to deal with difficult decisions," he said.
As much as Boyajian credits U.Va. and McIntire with preparing him for the future, though, he's quick to offer his deepest gratitude to his family.
"I really consider the greatest blessing in my life to be my family, and the work ethic and love that's been instilled in me by my three sisters and my parents," he said. "I think the greatest asset I've had in pursuing my education and my career has been the guidance and encouragement my family has given me."
— By Mary Summers