Ohio State University history professor Kevin Boyle, this year's Bexley High School commencement speaker, didn't always have a passion for history.

Ohio State University history professor Kevin Boyle, this year's Bexley High School commencement speaker, didn't always have a passion for history.

Boyle remembers reading history books as a child and he liked history in high school, but he had no intention of teaching history. His initial goal was to attend law school.

"It wasn't until I got to college that I fell in love with the subject," he said. "I had terrific teachers. It was a wonderfully exciting subject."

History gives us a chance to connect to the past and perspective on how "we got where we are today," Boyle said.

Boyle, who teaches 20th century American history with an emphasis on class, race and politics, will address 165 graduating seniors at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 6, at Bexley High School's stadium.

In addition to teaching at OSU, Boyle is the author of "Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age," which won a National Book Award for non-fiction and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

"I was really honored to have the (commencement) invitation," said Boyle, whose daughters, Abigail and Nan, attend Bexley High School and are a junior and freshman, respectively.

Boyle spoke at Ohio State's graduation in December but believes this experience is different because high school students are in a different stage of life.

"They are heading into college, not the world of employment and families," he said.

Boyle plans to suggest that the Bexley graduates find the subject that interests them and pursue that passion, as he did.

"That is where you find meaning in your life," he said.

Bexley High School librarian Mike Nolan said students choose the commencement speaker. He agreed with the decision to invite Boyle.

'"I heard him speak before about how much he appreciates Bexley," Nolan said. "He is a brilliant guy."

Senior class president Ranen Jones and vice president Catherine Brennan led the effort to select the commencement speaker. Boyle was the perfect choice because of his credentials as a writer and historian, and his ability to capture an audience, Jones said.

"We went into this process knowing our class held high expectations for us because they wanted a speaker who reflected the great legacy they are leaving at Bexley High School," Jones said.

Principal John Kellogg said the class of 2010 has been one of the district's strongest.

"We are saddened to see them go and certainly excited about what their future means, and wish them well as they head off to their next endeavors," he said.

tstubbs@thisweeknews.com