Henry Wilmer Jr. ’63, former Dean of Students and Instructor in French, passed away on December 22, 2015 in Lincoln, Vt., following a two-year battle with cancer.
Known for his humor, Wilmer is remembered as a special man with a kind heart.
Former Dean of Students Paul Murphy ’83 wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Henry redefined the role of Dean of Students. In fact, he changed the title from Dean of Residence to Dean of Students and Residential Life. He did so to more accurately reflect what he did – interact with students and their lives.”
“I vividly remember receiving a small note from Henry when I was in my first year [living] in America House. He wrote just to say that he thought I was doing a solid job. It made an impact,” Murphy continued.
Wilmer assumed the position of Cluster Dean of West Quad North from 1983 until 1988. He served as Dean of Students and Residential Life from 1990 to 1995.
“Wilmer was a very special man who had a sharp wit, good sense of humor and a kind heart. I worked with him for a couple of years (in my first two years as Pine Knoll cluster, Henry served as my Faculty DC Rep),” wrote Aya Murata, Associate Director of College Counseling, in an email to The Phillipian.
During his time at Andover, Wilmer was also co-head of the Andover Drug and Alcohol Awareness Committee (ADAAC). He was part of the committee responsible for bringing John Morello’s show, “Dirt,” to Andover for Wellness Week, formerly known as Freedom from Chemical Dependency Week.
Tom Seeley ’90 wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Henry had an incredibly big heart with a matching personality. As a former student, his empathy for students manifested itself in an unmistakeable kindness, even when meeting out discipline, as he was required to do in his position as Cluster Dean. I experienced this first-hand as I struggled to keep up academically and with personal issues in my first two years.”
Seeley continued, “Henry was among a group of teachers who took me under their wing to be sure I had the help and support I needed. Often he would take me out for ice cream on a Friday night or just let me hang out in his kitchen if I needed a little space away from the day-to-day pressures of being a student at Andover.”
In addition to his various roles on campus, Wilmer served as Director of the Language Learning Center as well.
“What I remember most was how engaging he was, whether telling an intensely personal story or just sharing a light-hearted moment, he commanded the room without dominating it. I always imagined his classes would have been amazing, though I never managed to have him as a teacher. [I] also wondered whether his southern accent would come through to a native French speaker (he was a French teacher when I was there),” wrote Seeley.
Derek Williams, former Instructor in History and Social Sciences and a close friend of Wilmer, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Henry was like a brother to me. At Andover my wife, who adored him, claimed that I spent more time with him than with her. He was a dear man – sensible, generous, funny, formidably durable, insanely hard-working, ridiculously modest. I’m not sure he realized the powerful and affirmative force he exerted – on me and countless others, students and colleagues alike.”
Wilmer is survived by his wife, Susie, and his children, Amie Creagh ’91 and Bo Wilmer ’90.
Creagh, presently Dean of Students at Deerfield Academy, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Aspiring to match my dad’s sense for compassion, humility and integrity has made me a better person. He combined hard work with fun and love with wonderful silliness. Dad enjoyed prolonged stretches in the outdoors far more than I, but I think of him every time I see a diamond snow or colorful sunset.”