On March 22, 2021, I lost a friend and colleague. After a long illness, Kevin Boberg passed away on that day. When I met him, he was working as a professor at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He was the first international logistics experts I met when I become a trade specialist thirty years ago. I remember being introduced to him and the talk turned to the soon-to-be-established Santa Teresa Port of Entry in southern New Mexico. He strongly argued that an intermodal yard incorporating rail and truck modes needed to be established there.
When I started asking questions about this concept, he ushered me to a boardroom at the back of the business school. He had a mad scientist’s look on his face as he outlined on a blackboard what an intermodal facility should look like. I had just started my career and he was well into his own career as a professor of business. I don’t think too many experts would take a novice like me and carefully explain every facet of how commerce moves in containers in a modern intermodal facility. I remember being absorbed in all the information he was imparting to me.
As luck would have it, I got to work on two intermodal facilities in Santa Teresa, the first that was opened in 2001 and that has its own short line railroad company; and exactly twenty years after Kevin’s initial lesson to me, the establishment of the huge Union Pacific intermodal facility just north of the short line. As we were inaugurating Union Pacific’s facility, my mind wandered back to the first meeting with Kevin and what a visionary he was to see the role an intermodal facility would play in southern New Mexico’s border industry. Little did I know that the first meeting would launch a long relationship in which we worked together on a multitude of international projects.
He and I nurtured a cooperative internship program that lasted more than two decades, in which we would position students from various institutions in my Mexico City and Santa Teresa offices. It would give them practical experience while they completed their degrees. Most were amazed that they were immediately given a lot of responsibility to complete projects, often in contact with high-ranking elected officials. Over the years, many of these interns have worked for my company, and several still do today. Kevin always took pride at the success most of these interns are having in their careers. Many have worked in foreign posts and hold high-ranking positions. Every single ex-intern that I have kept in touch with respected and held Kevin in high esteem, as he would do anything for his students.
Years later, when Kevin was no longer in charge of the internship program, an intern of mine from Mexico had her internship canceled midway through her graduate studies, due to lack of funding. The money that she was being paid as an intern was important and I could cover that one hundred percent on my side; however, the real crisis was losing her ability to qualify for in-state tuition. It would be impossible for her to pay out-of-state tuition in her financial situation. I called Kevin up because he knew the student and had worked with her before he changed positions. He immediately created a special class that would allow her to retain her internship, and guided her through the end of her studies. This intern is now a full-time member of my staff. When she found out that Kevin had passed, she cried, remembering his kindness. I imagine many of our interns also cried.
Lest a person think that he was simply an academic, they would quickly find out they were wrong. This was no ordinary professor or man. One day when we were meeting, he stretched his arms behind his head, and my eyes popped out of my head when I could spy a series of tattoos covering his forearms. He was a Harley man. Another time, one of our newly hired interns kept calling him “Dr. Boberg.” Kevin kept politely telling the student to call him “Kevin,” but the intern ignored his request. After being called “Dr. Boberg” one last time, Kevin
turned toward the intern and said, “If you call me Dr. Boberg again, I’ll sock you in the face,” and smiled. I loved that he was not even a bit pretentious.
Always a very humble man, he never liked to draw attention to himself. However, I always made it publicly known that he was the visionary behind the intermodal yard. When I did this, he would always get a nervous smile and stare at the floor. I’m sure that if he knew I was again saying it in this article, he would be embarrassed.
He never complained to me about his battle against a horrible illness, which hospitalized him numerous times and even resulted in amputation. Little by little, I saw him less, as he transitioned into retirement. From time to time, he would send me an e-mail about a particular subject, and I would communicate with him in that manner. When I got the news of his death, I was truly saddened. I always appreciated the times we worked together. I will always be grateful that he was kind enough to take a rookie like me and treat me as an equal that first day we met.