In this post we recognize Don Wyatt, John M. McCardell, Jr., Distinguished Professor of History, for his 25 years of service to Middlebury. Don shares some inspiring words about the rewards of getting to see students achieve their own “individual levels of excellence,” as well as the strong network of colleagues that he has developed over the years. “Simply being in a setting that is supportive of what you wish to accomplish is not to be taken lightly or for granted,” he says. “Middlebury has always offered me precisely that, and more.”
As appreciative as Don is for what Middlebury has offered him, the Middlebury community is equally thankful and proud of Don’s many outstanding contributions. Read on to learn more about how lucky we are that a short-term appointment turned into much more.
What did you do prior to work at Middlebury College and where were you located?
Prior to arriving, I was a fledgling college professor, employed less stably than I was to be here. After completing graduate school and immediately before coming to Middlebury, I was still in the Boston area. I taught history part-time at Harvard University (from which I received my graduate degrees) as well as at Clark University in Worcester and Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.
What job titles have you held while working at Middlebury?
I have held quite a few of them; here they all are, with the dates held:
- John M. McCardell, Jr. Distinguished Professor, 2010-present.
- Professor of History, Middlebury College, 1996-present.
- Vice President for Undergraduate Affairs and Dean of the College, 1994-1997.
- Associate Professor of History, Middlebury College, 1991-1996.
- Assistant Professor of History, Middlebury College, 1987-1991.
- Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Middlebury College, 1986-1987.
I suppose what is most significant is that I came to Middlebury on a terminal one-year leave replacement visiting appointment, with no hope of staying. Needless to say, I am still here.
Take us back to your first year as an employee at the College. What were the most significant things happening in your life outside of work then?
The only thing that stands out for me is that I met my future wife, Angela, almost as soon as I set foot in Middlebury. Although I guess neither of us really knew that then because it took a few more years to materialize.
What are the most significant things happening in your life outside of work now (that you’d like to share)?
Well, Angela and I have two daughters, neither of whom is presently at home. Our elder daughter, Athena, is immersed in a “gap year” experience in the Czech Republic. She will attend Vassar College this coming fall. Our younger daughter, Isis, is in a special needs boarding school arrangement just south of Boston. Keeping tabs on and up with the two of them consumes considerable time and energy.
Have your interests/hobbies/athletic endeavors changed over the past 25 years? Have any of these been influenced by your work at the College or due to your association with others who work here?
Well, none of these has changed but they have most certainly been influenced by working at the College and through my association with others here. This is particularly true of my athletic endeavors. I have been a loyal member of the noontime faculty basketball group the whole time I have been here.
What is your fondest memory or experience that you’ve had while working at Middlebury?
Well, I am afraid I have to hedge here because the experience has been so often repeated, and that is whenever a student of mine fully maximizes his or her potential. I have had an advisee win a Rhodes scholarship and thereafter enter academia where he is now a tenured professor and another advisee of mine graduated as valedictorian of her class. These are certainly memories like no others, and yet it is always rewarding to see students achieve their own individual levels of excellence. Such is why we teach.
Many people change jobs/careers multiple times in their working life. Something must have kept you here for 25 years. Is it anything that you can put into words?
Well, this is a unique environment in which we live, with many of the benefits, whether tangible or otherwise, being neither locatable nor transferable elsewhere. Simply being in a setting that is supportive of what you wish to accomplish is not to be taken lightly or for granted. Middlebury has always offered me precisely that, and more.
What are your plans for the next 25 years?
Retiring well and just continuing to live.
Do you have a favorite place on campus?
Two of them—the Athletic Center and Davis Family Library. I divide my time about equally between each.
Is there any person on campus (or retiree, former employer) that mentored you, or you feel helped you grow into your job, grow to enjoy your work and your time at the College?
I have profited from being in a large and harmonious department in which I have derived mentorship from many sources. However, as my professional models here, I must acknowledge foremost Nicholas Clifford, Travis Jacobs, and Marjorie Lamberti.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new employee at Middlebury, what would it be?
I suppose it would be embrace your environment fully, with good faith, and with a willingness to commit to it. Middlebury is a remarkably receptive place where contributing positively makes it easy to find a niche for yourself. That cannot be said of everywhere, but I have found that if one invests constructively in this place, it will invest in you.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about your time at Middlebury?
Well, only that it is time that has gone by quickly. I doubt that I would feel that way if I had not enjoyed it.