We will dearly miss IWF Board Member Yvonne Boice, who passed away peacefully in her home on January 13, 2023. She was an incredible woman and a mentor to many people. She was an extraordinary business and philanthropic leader.
The following profile was originally published October 1, 2014, as part of our Champion Women series.
Defining Yvonne Boice is not a simple task. Magazine editors and TV producers, who enjoy profiling the dynamic businesswoman/philanthropist, often employ the adjective, “superwoman.” A seemingly apt description when one tallies the diverse list of cultural organizations she actively supports and her increasing international influence on important women’s issues.
Within one year, Boice has been selected to represent our country internationally at two high-profile women’s business conferences. In November 2006, Karen Hughes the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy chose Yvonne as a delegate to the MENA (Middle East and North African) Women’s Conference held in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.. Then in June 2007, Paula Dobriansky, the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, appointed Yvonne to attend at the Global Summit of Women in Berlin.
In addition to these important diplomatic trips, there are the businesses she owns — the Shoppes of Village Pointe, a thriving 77,000-square-foot shopping center, and Fugazy International Travel, which was bestowed American Express affiliation in June 2006. However, as important as all of these accomplishments are, it’s Yvonne’s dedication to two important goals that offer the greatest insight into her character.
“Ensuring that the cultural organizations that feed the soul are supported and nurtured has always been my initial passion. My work with such organizations as the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia, the Centre for the Arts, and as the Chair of the Palm Beach International Film Festival have given me the opportunity to lead initiatives that will ensure that our youth have both access to the arts and the ability to pursue their dreams within their desired disciplines,” explained Yvonne. Her role as the Chair of the PBIFF has been particularly important to her because the Festival provides academic scholarships to local film students and because it has given her an international voice regarding film’s ability to bring about change and shift perceptions. Her high-profile platform within this organization, and her keen business acumen, led to her being noticed by the State Department and appointed to several important delegations, which led to her fulfilling her second passion: empowering women.
Recently, Yvonne was one of six women selected by the U.S. Department of State to attend the conference for businesswomen in the Middle East and North Africa in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. Yvonne’s role as Chair of the Palm Beach International Film Festival was a key reason why she was chosen to participate, but it’s her ability to form meaningful connections with women that made her journey a true success. Yvonne relates on the human level, fostering relationships based upon the feelings and desires we all share. The love of family and need to provide for them is paramount to women. And she knows the struggles that can be entailed. After her husband’s death, she was left with the responsibility of managing a new shopping center that was only 30% occupied. Heartbroken and overwhelmed by the daunting job ahead, she placed her focus on making progress each and every day. In time, with innovation and determination, she surmounted the obstacles and created an inspiring success story. Currently, the Shoppes are 100% occupied with 25 clients, including an Outback Steakhouse, and grossing over 3.5 million dollars annually in revenue.
Finding these human commonalities made it easy for the women in the Middle East to approach Yvonne for advice on how to both improve their businesses and women’s roles in their respective countries.
Knowing Yvonne’s innate communication skills, Secretary Hughes asked Yvonne to accompany her on a side trip to Zayed University, an all-female school, to speak with the students.
“Entering the classroom, I was greeted by a sea of dark inquisitive eyes, their heads and bodies enshrouded by their burkas,” explained Yvonne. “At first I was unsure what their reaction to American females would be, and I wondered if we would be able to break down the barriers and have a meaningful dialogue.”
United States politics, of course, was an initial concern, so Secretary Hughes simply stated policy and explained that there are differences in countries’ views. However, Yvonne was interested in creating a bridge between these differences.
Yvonne felt the smartest way to begin the conversation was to let the women ask whatever questions they desired. “I wanted them to feel comfortable and to know I was here to be a tool for their education and understanding,” she said. “I wanted the dialogue to be open and non-judgmental, and I believe they felt that immediately.”
Having sponsored a travel abroad program at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, with a $100,000 endowment, Yvonne had seen the impact that travel has on young students. In order to graduate from Lynn, all students must experience international travel. The burgeoning awareness these travels bring to the students is something Yvonne is tremendously proud of, as she has seen them develop a new respect and understanding for those in the global community.
“Owning a travel agency and having traveled to all seven continents, I knew that the only way to really foster true understanding is through experiencing another country and their people. Having seen the maturity and growth of the Lynn students after their travels, I encouraged the women at Zayed to travel without preconceived notions. I explained to the students that their perceptions of the United States have often been shaped by the media. And this is not always an accurate portrayal, as we all know. On both sides, we need to move past the stereotypes we have of each other and focus on the characteristics and emotions that unite us. And as women, there is so much we can help each other with. We are, by nature, the nurturers, and that spirit can and will prevail.”
“I truly enjoyed my time at Zayed,” said Yvonne. “We covered a gamut of topics as women often do, from serious issues to lighthearted thoughts about makeup and pop culture. I came away with a deeper understanding that these women are strong: they do not feel repressed, most have fulfilling relationships with the males in their lives, they strive to have success and happy families, and they long for peace and prosperity for their nation and in the global community. This was an important message they asked me to spread to my community, and I have been delighted and honored to do so.”
Yvonne’s goal for this meeting with the students was initially a simple one, but as their time together came to a close, she realized that had accomplished so much more than what she set out to do — she had become a tool for global peace.
Another significant outcome of her Middle Eastern journey was the relationship she formed with Moroccan delegation, which sought her advice on how to deal with the negative portrayal of women in their country’s media. Yvonne guided the group on the process of creating a film contest that would focus attention on their nation’s gender issues. Impressed with this creative idea, the delegation invited Yvonne to speak about the evolution of women’s roles in the media at the Marrakech Film Festival. Eloquent and determined to inspire the women in the audience to challenge the status quo, Yvonne bravely refuted the previous male speaker’s comments that women will always be victims. Her defiance of this statement brought cheers from the audience and forged a lasting bond with the women of this country. Currently, Yvonne is planning to have the contest winner’s film debut in this country at the 2008 Palm Beach International Film Festival.
The impact Yvonne made by her appointment to this delegation was such an outstanding one that she was next asked to represent our nation at the Global Summit of Women 2007 in Berlin. Here, she was honored by her selection as our country’s delegate in the parade of nations during the opening ceremonies. This comprehensive business summit attended by international government officials, CEOs, and other leading business owners proved a perfect platform for Yvonne’s entrepreneurial talents as she spoke to the conference about the critical topic of how to maintain a thriving business during economic slowdowns.
Yvonne’s ability to impart her personal life lessons and encourage others to participate and support noteworthy cultural and women’s causes has garnered has made her a sought-after speaker.
“Addressing each new audience is the opportunity to offer both encouragement and education,” she explained. ”I have been blessed with many life experiences in a variety of roles from entrepreneurial to charitable, political to cultural, and I have always felt it is my duty to give of my knowledge so that others may take the next step in their lives — to reach for their potential and to fulfill it.”
It’s this dedication to service that has garnered her such admiration and recognition from her peers. In early 2007, Yvonne was bestowed the Amazing American Woman Award in Washington, D.C., for her outstanding leadership skills. And most recently, Yvonne was presented with the President’s Call to Service Award from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. She was also honored with the 2008 Bridge Builder Award from LEAH — The League for Educational Awareness of the Holocaust.
On a daily basis, it is easy to see that Yvonne lives up to her “Amazing” title!
On a personal note, Yvonne is a devoted mother to Lauren, a practicing attorney living in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband, world-renowned astrophysicist, Dr. Randall Knowles Smith.