Jim DeWilde to retire after 32 years at Western

by John Olson, WWU Office of Communications
  • Jim DeWilde with his dirt bike in the Mattawa desert region of eastern Washington
    Jim DeWilde with his dirt bike in the Mattawa desert region of eastern Washington

Jim DeWilde will retire on Wednesday, Oct. 30 after working for 32 years at Western, with 16 of those as the Financial Aid department's associate director. As with many employees at Western, DeWilde started as a student before deciding to return to the university to start his professional career.

DeWilde originally started as a student at Washington State University. His introduction to Western came during a two-week National Guard training in the summer of 1983; DeWilde remembers his time on campus being the inspiration for transferring.

“When I walked around campus that summer, I saw socially engaged students,” DeWilde said. “They weren’t just focused on making the grade but also in being involved in what was happening around them — it was an environment I wanted to be in.”

In fall 1984, DeWilde transferred to Western and was hired as a math tutor in the Tutoring Center. It was here that DeWilde met fellow tutor and his eventual wife, Jody Harwood. DeWilde continued working as a tutor until his graduation in 1986 with a degree in Math/Economics.

After graduation, DeWilde worked for Boeing Aerospace in their military contracts division. Eventually, he began to question if that position would define his life’s work. Deciding he needed a change, DeWilde applied to again work in Western’s Tutoring Center as a program assistant.

Over the next 10 years, DeWilde progressed through positions — becoming a coordinator in 1988, and then assistant director in 1993.

“After working 10 years in the Tutoring Center and Academic Advising, I had a midlife crisis,” DeWilde said. “I knew I liked and valued what I was doing, but was it what I wanted to do for the rest of my life?”

DeWilde said he began looking for other jobs that would’ve taken advantage of his undergraduate degree as well as his master’s degree in Business Administration.

At the time, Clara Capron was the director of Financial Aid, and she offered DeWilde a lateral move to assistant director in her department. DeWilde would later become the associate director five years later.

“My midlife crisis was essentially resolved by moving from the third floor of Old Main to the second,” DeWilde said. “No sports car needed.”

DeWilde says that his biggest takeaway from his time at Western, both academically and professionally, comes from his master’s degree program.

Every day before class, his Managerial Skills Professor Ken Keleman would write “maintain or improve the relationship” on the board as part of the class’s daily agenda.

“I hope that I’ve done everything I can do to improve or maintain the relationships I’ve made here at Western,” DeWilde said.

“Jim has gone out of his way to help students through Financial Aid, the Tutoring Center, Academic Advising, and through collaboration with a multitude of departments on campus,” Capron said. “We are grateful to Jim for choosing to spend his time with us in the fulfilling but demanding work that we do."

DeWilde said he plans to spend more time working at his certified tree farm, “DeWildeWoods,” and investing — researching and making key stock trades when there are major market or company moves.

“I’ve appreciated my career at Western and I’ll miss working with our talented faculty, staff and student employees,” DeWilde said. “I wish them all well, and know they’ll keep up the good work of supporting higher education.”

DeWilde’s retirement reception will be held in Viking Union 565 on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 2:30-4 p.m.

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Monday, October 28, 2019 - 11:25am