Anacapa Scholar: Will Wilder CdeP 2005

Alum returns to share insight from his time in the Marine Corps.
All year long, the campus welcomes visiting scholars, artists in residence, and other guests who share their special expertise. Some become members of the campus community for extended periods of time, others are here only briefly to deliver lectures or meet with students.

Recently, we welcomed alum Will Wilder back to campus!

Visitor: Will Wilder CdeP 2005, a graduate of Bowdoin College, a former officer in the United States Marine Corps serving in Afghanistan, and a current MBA candidate at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

What he did on campus: Will Wilder’s first day of classes at Thacher coincided with the September 11 terrorist attacks—a memory that remains vivid in his mind to this day. His visit to Thacher coincided with the 16th anniversary of the tragedy; during his time on campus he delivered a talk to the community about his experience being deployed in Afghanistan (which sophomores were required to attend in place of history homework that evening) and visited both English and history classes. Students in these classes were reading books and studying events that dovetailed with Wills experience, and he was able to contribute a valuable, first-hand perspective to their in-class discussions.  

Our impressions:

“Wills interesting background and varied perspective were a welcome addition to Honors Contemporary Ethical Issues. He helped the students work through various war-related ethical dilemmas and kept them at rapt attention throughout the 50-minute class. He also discussed the role of women in the military, the impact that service has had on him both personally and professionally, and how his time at Thacher positioned him for leadership opportunities in and out of the military. The students and I greatly appreciated his visit to Room 5.” —Mr. Carney

“Will came to visit my senior English elective, for which students are reading a contemporary novel called Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which focuses on the experience of a group of soldiers home on leave from the war in Iraq. The students have been enthusiastic about this book, and Wills visit couldnt have been more timely. The novel has heightened the students awareness of the modern-day soldiers perspective, and they peppered Will with questions about his own interactions with his fellow soldiers and with the civilian world upon the conclusion of his service. We were extraordinarily lucky to have the opportunity to speak with a recent war veteran and a Thacher alum in this manner.” —Mr. Snyder

“I thought Will Wilder brought a different view to what we are learning about, especially in English. He humanized the entire experience a little bit more, which really helped me connect to what we are talking about in English. In history, as we progress to talking about more modern events, I think what he talked about will help me understand what it is like to actually be there and live through these things. His visit overall really helped me immerse myself in what we are talking about in both history and English and helped me think about things from a different point of view.” —Jackie Thacher 20

“It was wonderful having Mr. Wilder speak to my Middle East history classes about his experiences in the United States Marine Corp and in Afghanistan. His visit coincided with a unit on geography and Mr. Wilders experience reinforced aspects of physical geography and the remote and isolated sections of Afghanistan. His description of Camp Leatherneck as an artificial city in the desert really hit home with the students. The class also learned about his direct involvement in drug interdiction and the complex problems facing the Afghan government related to the profitable drug trade. It was a pleasure to hear his insights and learn from his experiences.” —Mr. St. George

“Mr. Wilder’s talk showed that there is a lot more to being a marine than just the “shoot ‘em up” soldier that is the stereotype for the army or marine corps. It was also interesting that so much planning and detail is needed for every hour-long mission through a village, because it seems like a relatively simple task. It did make sense once all the things that could go wrong or surprise the marines were taken into account.” —Ian Dunne 20

“I really enjoyed his visit! I thought his talks were very interesting, probably my favorite this year.”  —Riley Carney ’20

“Will had a huge impact on our students, especially given the short amount of time he was here. His lectures about his time in Afghanistan and his experiences as a leader in his unit were fascinating and very engaging, as evidenced by the many excellent questions asked by the audience in both settings. It is always great for our students to meet alumni who have had careers off the beaten path of the typical Thacher profile, and this was no exception.” —Ms. Livermore

Learn more about Thachers visiting scholars program.

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