It’s been a few years since Bill Waynick ’91 wore the Wilbur costume, but his enthusiasm for the University of Arizona remains just as strong as in the days when he danced, crowd-surfed and signed autographs as Wilbur T. Wildcat.
Waynick performed the role of Wilbur throughout his time earning a degree in management information systems. Just two years after graduating, Waynick created the Wilbur and Wilma T. Wildcat Endowed Scholarship Fund to honor and support students who serve as Arizona mascots.
While it’s a privilege for students to take on the role, Waynick says, they spend a great deal of time representing the university.
“I thought it would be nice to ease some of the burden for the mascots, because they do a lot on and off the field,” Waynick says.
Waynick’s favorite memories as Wilbur include traveling to the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii, brightening the spirits of children during hospital visits and working with his handler, Rocky LaRose, who went on to become Arizona’s deputy director of athletics.
“I could never pass by the Knothole [the former children’s section in Arizona stadium] without high-fiving and hugging and taking pictures. That was cool.”
Waynick also wanted to give back to the university he fell in love with the first time he visited. He remains grateful for the professors and friends and believes the experience of being Wilbur kept him on track to graduate by providing a sense of purpose and responsibility.
A few years after graduating, Waynick was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and rooming with Devin Elliott ’95 ’11, who had replaced him as Wilbur. Elliott introduced him to Kelly March ’96 on a blind date at an Arizona basketball game. In true Wildcat style, Bill later proposed at another basketball game. The team’s loss that day doesn’t seem to bring bad luck to Bill and Kelly: They’ve been married almost 25 years.
The couple now live at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Waynick is director of Air Force Cyberworx. His team works on a variety of problems for the Department of Defense, engaging partners from different disciplines and industries.
The Waynicks plan to move back to Tucson this summer after Bill retires. He looks forward to being close to campus again.
“I can’t wait to attend more events, be more of a part of the organization, and try to help out where I can, because it does make a difference.”
In the photo above, Bill and Kelly Waynick pose with the Air Force Academy mascot The Bird.
The Waynicks met on a blind date at UArizona. In fact, so did Wilma and Wilbur, who married Nov. 21, 1986, during a football game against Arizona State. During the ceremony, Wilma vowed to aid Wilbur in representing the school and its alumni. Wilbur agreed to support Wilma in her efforts to make children smile.