Davis Desk

A Tribute to Wyatt Wade (June 28, 1946–February 23, 2024)

By Claire Mowbray Golding, posted on May 15, 2024

Wyatt Wade never taught art. He wasn’t a great student—he only made so-so grades and even managed to get himself kicked out of the University of Texas for a while. He told me he never bothered with reading assignments—just skimmed the CliffsNotes. He was a terrible speller, too.

But does that mean he wasn’t a visionary art education publisher? Not in the least.

Illustration of Wyatt by Tithya Puch, 2009.
Illustration of Wyatt by Tithya Puch, 2009.

I started working for Wyatt in early 1983, just three years into his tenure as managing editor. Davis Publications was a different world then: a silent, cigarette-smoke-filled, almost colorless ground-floor office in a building permeated with the smell of printers’ ink. The editorial/production staff was tiny: just Wyatt, myself, and one other person producing a monthly magazine, several resource books, and a textbook or two each year. We all had a lot to do, a lot to learn. The pay was low, and time off was scanty. Worcester was just another gritty Rust Belt town, and Portland Street was a wind tunnel of swirling trash with a bordello at one end.

Because of Wyatt, the job was a blast.

His Texas-sized viewpoints didn’t always fit comfortably inside those cautious New England walls, but Wyatt had qualities that enabled him to bring his dreams to life and inspire others to dream right along with him. Here are just some of those qualities:

He believed in people.
Sometimes more than they believed in themselves. That made him a great acquiring editor: He often had to convince authors that they really could write that article or book. It also made him a great boss because he saw strengths that not everyone did and cheered us on.

He believed in the arts.
He may not have taught art, but he taught history and revered the humanities. Anyone who worked with him learned about art’s vital importance in education and Davis’s role in supporting it.

He had vision.
Most mornings, Wyatt had ten new ideas before we could even hang up our coats. And he didn’t forget them. For a hasty man, he had great stores of patience. He also had deep wells of optimism, an indispensable resource in the unpredictable world of publishing. He was always able to see possibilities.

He was a natural teacher.
Wyatt could certainly talk, but he could also communicate. He taught us to speak to authors by inviting us to listen to his conversations; we learned to appreciate Davis’s history and mission because he shared it with us all the time.

He didn’t take himself too seriously.
He rarely had any trouble laughing at himself. Some of his funniest stories were about his own mistakes.

He knew how to have a good time.
Squirt guns? Masks? 3-D glasses? They were all part of the office experience. We worked hard, and we had fun. It was a compelling combination.

If I had to name one enduring lesson (among many) that Wyatt left me, it’s this one: You gotta love the process. He always did.

Claire Mowbray Golding has worked for Davis in varying capacities for the past forty-one years. She is a freelance writer and editor based in Princeton, Massachusetts, and is co-author of Davis’s Communicating through Graphic Design. Her last book project with Wyatt, in November 2023, was Dear Mr. Was: Letters from Maine by Carol Noonan.

Read more tributes to Wyatt.