WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Nov. 5, 2021 – Besides providing security services to the campus community, the West Liberty University Campus Police also offer criminal justice majors a perfect place to learn the ropes.
Joining the officers on patrol and in the office this year is Wyatt Gardner, a criminal justice senior and starting center for Coach Waialae and the WLU football team.
Gardner is on the dean’s list and transferred into WLU from Santa Barbara, Calif., where he earned an associate degree in criminal justice from Santa Barbara Community College. He’s looking forward to December when he’ll take part in commencement after completing his bachelor’s degree.
“We’ve had lots of interns in the office but Wyatt is special. He’s got a lot of questions and is very willing to cooperate and learn. He’s fun to work with and is consistent in his effort,” said Officer J.R. Olejasz, who has been a member of the Campus Police since 1983.
He’s also a big dude and when he stands next to Officer Olejasz, the duo can be a bit intimidating.
“We make a great wall,” said Olejasz, laughing at the amusing analogy.
“Wyatt and I get along well on patrol and otherwise. Since he likes to hunt and enjoys the outdoors, we’ve even gone rabbit hunting together,” he notes.
Olejasz has seen a lot of student interns over his years on the Hilltop. He loves his job, stating “that each day is interesting and enjoyable.”
“This semester had been a bit different with a lot of new requests with traffic, parking and other duties. Wyatt was helpful as a resource in knowing our students, coaches and their cars, which helps when we have to move vehicles,” Olejasz said.
Wyatt, 24, is married to Darian Gardner who has followed her husband in his football and educational career.
“Darian is amazing and supports me in everything. I wouldn’t be here without her,” Wyatt said. His wife works as a veterinarian technician at New Horizon Hospital, located in St. Clairsville, Ohio.
Wyatt’s originally from Afton, Wyo., and more recently from Snohomish, Wash. His mother Gerrie is in town this weekend for his Senior Day Game.
He’s been in the Campus Police Office since August. His duties include monitoring parking, traffic, vandalism and assisting on calls.
“This morning we responded to a call from an employee who hit a deer on the way to work, for example. She was fine but her car wasn’t,” said Wyatt.
He’s quick to mention that though he’s traveled a lot in his life, he’s really enjoyed meeting WLU’s employees and the area residents (he lives off-campus in the town of West Liberty). Fritz Sweeney, WLU’s Assistant Director of Physical Plant, also helped him out while he’s been a student and went hunting with him.
But the relationship he’s enjoyed most is the great friendship he’s developed with his offensive line, especially the starting five, and his Offensive Line Coach Dan Hopkins.
“Dan is like a father figure to me.”
Though he’s not certain what he’ll do post-graduation, he hopes to continue his football career, maybe in the Canadian Football League or overseas if he makes it to the pros. Wyatt also is active in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and he’d like to own a gym one day.
An interesting fact about Wyatt is that he’s the nephew of 2000 U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist Rulon Gardner, who competed at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and won the gold medal in 2000, defeating Russia’s three-time reigning gold medalist Aleksandr Karelin in the final.
Wyatt sees his famous uncle every summer.
One thing’s for sure, Wyatt will be missed in the Campus Police Office.
“I’ve learned so much from Chief Fox and J.R. They worked with my football practice and academic schedule so I appreciate it. They are good role models to learn from,” Wyatt said.
“It’s been a pleasure working with Wyatt and we’re all wishing him the best in his future,” said Olejasz.
Olejasz is one of seven full-time professional officers serving the campus community, led by Chief Ron Fox of Graysville, Pa.
The Campus Police Office is located on the ground floor of Shaw Hall, call 304.336.8021.