On February 25, 2014, Willard G. “Bill” Wyman II died from lung cancer at the age of 83. He served as Headmaster of The Thacher School for 34 years beginning in 1975.
At this time, Thacher’s academics and infrastructure were rapidly deteriorating.
Bill Wyman swept in and revolutionized the school. He constructed new classrooms including the math and science building, built the dining hall and erected additional stables.
And that was only the shell of his legacy, as current headmaster Michael Mulligan said during the Saturday, April 19 memorial service:.
“For Bill, academic excellence was the critical center of the School.”
He hired a strong faculty, held both them and the students to the highest standards, and saw the coeducational integration of Thacher.
Jennifer Crittenden CdeP ’87 called Bill Wyman “the western movie star.”
In line with that image, Mr. Wyman loved adventures and challenges, which he often secretly imparted on students.
After camping with Mr. Wyman and becoming suspicious of the burros who were tied at night and free roaming in the morning, Mr. Coleman approached Mr. Shagam about these inexplicable escapes. Mr. Wyman had years ago confided in Mr. Shagam: he untied the burros at night to give Thacher students the joyous and complicated experience of chasing them down.
Mr. Wyman was a star in the outdoors program. When he was not untying burros, he was scrambling up hidden trails on his famous Tennessee Walker, jokingly called Air Force One, and leading aspiring packers on tough, but tremendous camping trips.
His rustic cowboy exterior melded unexpectedly well with his elegantly cerebral interior.
Ms. Joy Sawyer-Mulligan, who was taught by Bill Wyman at Colby College and later began her tenure as an English teacher while he was Headmaster at Thacher, said he taught her “that tricky simultaneity of reading text whole-mindedly andof loving the sheer dance of the words themselves, as linked sounds, as beautiful portals to meaning.”
His legacy is best captured by Mr. Mulligan.
“[Bill] captured our imagination; he was charismatic, tough and independent; he did what he thought was right regardless of how it played. He helped rebuild a School with a magical history and tradition.”
Part of his legacy includes the creation of the student morning job program, the outdoor assembly, and the all-school spring extra-day trips.
Fittingly, in 1991, the school was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as an “Exemplary School” – one of only 222 public and independent schools in the nation – and the only boarding school on the list.
The school has lost a gifted teacher, headmaster, and leader; an award-winning novelist and man of letters; an exceptional outdoorsman and trip leader; and a man who inspired faculty and students to live for the greater good.
Mr. Wyman is survived by his two sons, Willard G. Wyman III of Santa Barbara, and his wife Michelle and their three children (Caitlin, Casey and Molly) and Jedediah Fowler Wyman of Corvallis, Ore.; former wife Jane Fowler Wyman; and by Barbara Saxon, his partner for many years.