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Former professor remembered for kindness, dedication

When former student Albert Talcott makes a decision, he hears Professor Doug Wayland’s voice in his head.

“I think of things he would say, I have such a Doug-critical ear,” Talcott said. “I think about what I would ask him about real-life situations because he was so smart.”

Wayland, an adjunct associate professor of voice and opera in the College of Musical Arts, died Nov. 25 at the age of 59. He was closer with his students than most professors.

He would not only meet them for voice lessons once a week, but he coached their barbershop quartet, took them out to dinner and brought them medicine when they were sick.

“He really cared and he really listened,” said Talcott.

Talcott thinks more about Wayland during the holidays, as he helped Wayland decorate his house for Christmas one year. Wayland also brought Talcott flu medicine when he was sick and his car was buried under snow in lot 12.

“He was standing there with four bags from Kroger,” Talcott said. “That was really incredible.”

Talcott had lessons with Wayland every week when he was a student, as voice students are paired with a professor who gives them voice lessons. Wayland gave lessons to about 13 or 14 students this semester.

“He always put his students first,” said Nick Gordon, a senior vocal performance major who worked with Wayland for six years before his death.

Wayland was like a father figure for Gordon.

“I guess it was a combination of him being so supportive of me and always there,” Gordon said. “I never had someone I could look up to until him.”

Gordon has been at the University for several years and took time off this past year to go sing at Disney World.

Wayland was mad that Gordon left, but was still able to support him and even flew down to Florida to see him perform and stayed with him for a few days.

Not only did he go to Florida to see Gordon perform, he also coached a barbershop quartet Gordon was in. The quartet, Prestige, won first place in the International Collegiate Barbershop Competition a few years ago with Wayland’s coaching help.

“He just did it because we asked him,” Gordon said. “He wanted us to sing barbershop with the same healthy technique as opera.”

Myra Merritt, Music Performance Studies professor and friend of Waylands’s, met him when she needed advice about teaching a class few years ago.

“He was so willing to help,” Merritt said. “He gave me some wonderful ideas … he’s extremely encouraging, he’s very positive, very giving, extremely generous with his time, with his knowledge.”

Wayland was a great loss to the University, Merritt said.

“For the students I think they felt he was totally approachable and he was interested in their growth [as human beings],” she said.

To Talcott, Wayland was not just a professor, he was a friend.

“From my perspective, he went above and beyond any requirement that was set for a voice faculty member,” Talcott said.

Talcott also remembers his sense of humor.

“He’s very funny, he’s very sarcastic but in a very funny way,” Talcott said. “He was really good at turning bad situations … putting a funny side to it so they weren’t so bad.”

Wayland loved music since he was young, said his younger sister, Suzanne Collins.

“[When he came home,] he would sing so loud you could hear it in the whole neighborhood,” Collins said.

He also loved learning, she said.

“Every time I would see him, he would always be reading a book,” Collins said.

Wayland graduated from the University and came back in 2004 to teach.

“He loved music. He loved learning, but his greatest love was teaching; he was happiest when he was teaching,” Merritt said.

To Gordon, Wayland was the Mr. Feeny to his Cory Matthews, he compared him to the popular character in “Boy Meets World.”

“If I had a problem with anything, I can always go to him,” Gordon said.

Gordon will always remember that he couldn’t have done opera without Wayland.

“He was such a humongous part of my whole approach to singing,” Gordon said. “I’ll never forget … to always live the music.”

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