After 12 years, a child, dozens of bus routes driven and two dogs later, Bill Wyatt is packing up his office at JMU and heading toward VMI. Wyatt announced on Jan. 28 that he would leave JMU to become VMI’s director of communications and marketing.
Wyatt, JMU’s spokesman and director of communications, started his career in politics in Maryland. Wyatt said he transitioned into higher education to better suit his growing family.
Wyatt said that when he first toured JMU’s campus he was an “outsider,” but it didn’t take long for that to change. Wyatt emphasized that JMU has become more than an employer over the years.
“In every aspect of our lives, people just reached out to us, you know, whether it was church or activities for the kids or, you know, people were giving us suggestions and inviting us to things,” Wyatt said. “It made a big difference in transitioning to the Valley.”
On top of working full-time in JMU’s Communications Department, Wyatt also drove night routes for HDPT. He said the experience allowed him to gain a better understanding of the students he served.
JMU’s Associate Director of Communications and Deputy Spokesperson Caitlyn Read said that while she’s excited for Wyatt’s new opportunity, she’s going to miss his “steady hand” in the office.
Over the years, Wyatt has become Read’s mentor. She said that he took a chance on her when she was hired six years ago and is grateful to have worked under his guidance and leadership. Throughout the years, Read said Wyatt has constantly challenged others to become better professionals.
“He takes a very vested interest in people, personal and professional development,” Read said. “I just learned tremendously from his ability to sort of see the forest through the trees and see the bigger picture and focus on the outcome that he wants to achieve and get the team there.”
Carey Wyatt, Bill’s wife, said the family has grown with the university over the past 12 years. The family of eight, plus two dogs, has had JMU in its backyard since arriving over a decade ago.
Carey said that while Bill’s job is migrating about 50 minutes down I-81 to Lexington, Virginia, the whole family had a say in the matter. Carey described Bill as the leader of the family but said he’s mindful of everyone’s opinion when it comes to making big decisions, such as this.
“Bill is like the rock of our family — he's just very solid,” Carey said. “He has a lot of personal integrity. He definitely has a strong faith that he draws on for some of the tough stuff.”
Throughout it all, Bill said JMU has held doors for him throughout his time on campus — literally and figuratively. It was the little things for Bill that made Harrisonburg feel like home.
“JMU is a family,” Wyatt said. “JMU is home. There's just such a sense of community and anyone who's ever been a part of it, I think we'll talk about that family feeling.”
Over the years, Wyatt had a hand in several accomplishments for the university, like expanding the communications department and working on JMU’s first comprehensive campaign. With Feb. 7 being his last day at JMU, he credits his mentors, like JMU’s Senior Vice President Charles King, for guiding him throughout his time wearing purple and gold.
“I'm grateful that there were a number of folks who invested in me and invested in my leadership and believed in me, and so, you know, from a professional standpoint, I want to pass that along to other people,” Wyatt said.
Contact Katelyn Waltemyer at email@example.com. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.