Wilder aims to leave positive impact on all he encounters

He begins his day with a positive mind and a prayer, before taking on his role as the “dining room man” on Marshall University’s campus.

“Every morning I wake up and thank the Lord for another day,” Wilder said. “I look at it as another day to either do good or bad and I choose to make my days good.”

Anderson Wilder, 66, flashes a bright smile and offers kind words to students as he wipes down tables in the Memorial Student Center.

Anderson is a veteran, retired and works his days in the MSC dining hall on campus. Wilder takes out the trash and wipes off tables, but mostly he brings joy to the students who encounter him.

Students often describe Wilder as “always smiling” or “always happy” as he works his shift in the MSC. Wilder opened up about how he keeps a positive outlook on life and a smile on his face.

“I’m the dining room man, that’s what you can call me,” Anderson said. “I made good strides in my life and I feel good about myself. I love my job and I really love being around the kids, they kind of keep me young at heart.”

Wilder grew up in Logan County, West Virginia. Wilder’s father was a coal miner and he grew up with 10 brothers and sisters. Wilder joined the United States Air Force in 1970 and said being in the military brought him a world of adventure and experience.

“At age 20, I enlisted into the United States Air Force and served for four years,” Anderson said.  “I tell you, that was a good time in my life. It matured me. I got to see a lot of the world. I’ve been all over the world, to Greece, Germany, England, Turkey, Thailand and China. I’ve seen a lot and it matures you and makes you appreciate things more, especially living in the United States. Ain’t nothing like home.”

“I can’t complain about where I’ve been in my life because I’ve had a good life, I really have,” Wilder said. “I’ve been all over the world. A lot of people don’t see that. I’ve been across the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. My favorite place was England; I loved the atmosphere and the people there. It’s a very friendly and nice place.”

Once Wilder finished his time in the military, he took a job at Veolia Water in Williamson, West Virginia and retired from there. After retiring, Wilder got a job with Sodexo on campus and started working in the MSC.

“I love Marshall, this is a nice campus and the students are really friendly,” Anderson said. “I talk to a lot of kids. Sometimes I talk to the football players and ask them how practice is going and I know some soccer players. I always try to wish them well and encourage them to stay in school.”

Wilder walks amid tables as students converse and eat their meals between classes and stopped when he saw a young man he often talks with. With a kind pat on the student’s back, Wilder asked how his classes are going this semester and they make small talk about life and sports.

“I love that guy,” said student Marquez Davila Jr. “He knows me on a first name basis and he’ll ask me how my day is going and how my classes are. He keeps it short though, gives me a fist bump and continues doing his job.”

“It’s a positive environment here,” Wilder said. “My school days are over but I try to tell kids that education is what they need because the world is only going to get tougher. When you reach the age that I am, you appreciate life more. I try to stay busy and enjoy the rest of the years that I have.”

As Anderson looked around at the students, he expressed two things he finds most important, that he tries to instill in the young adults he meets on campus: Respect those around you and have a strong work ethic.

“My parents taught us to have respect for others,” Wilder said. “That’s the reality of my life.  That’s probably why a lot of the kids like me because I respect them. You can’t walk around being a hater; you have to treat people with respect no matter who they are. No matter what gender, race, whatever you have to give up respect.”

“Something else I would tell kids is you need to work,” Wilder said. “If you’re not working then you’re not gaining anything in life.”

Anderson said the money he made after retirement and from working at Marshall helped him treat himself to a 2011 Honda CRV. 

“That’s what comes with working, if you work hard you can get the things you want,” Wilder said. “You have to work, it’s a part of life.”

Wilder said he was always taught to have a good attitude and give respect to others. Wilder said he tries to be a positive person on campus every day.

“My mom always told me life is too short to be miserable, so I always try to be happy,” Wilder said. “I’m 66, so my advice to kids is to enjoy your youth, stay on the positive side of life and be the best person you can be, it’ll all work out.”

Anderson ended his advice to students with three tips. “Have fun, enjoy your youth and get your education.”

Baily Turner can be contacted at [email protected].