Co-workers reflect on member of McCormack family

Michael McKay

When WKU alumnus Spencer Wills got his first room as a music educator for Bristow Elementary, he put a lot of effort into the way it looked.

Wills graduated from WKU in May with a Bachelor of Music Education degree and started work at Bristow Elementary in August.

“He spent two days organizing it and arranging it,” said Jennifer Markin, coordinator for Student Services at WKU and a friend of Wills. “He took pictures of it and came and showed me. He was really so proud of his classroom.”

Wills died last Wednesday. Dewayne Lawrence, Warren County Deputy Coroner, said the cause of death is still being investigated at this time.

Wills’ visitation was Sunday at Highlands Family-Owned Funeral Home in Louisville. Markin and others who worked with him at McCormack Hall attended.

The funeral was Monday at 1:30 p.m. EDT.

Markin was the coordinator in McCormack for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years when Wills was a resident assistant. Wills was an RA in McCormack for two-and-a-half years.

“We were definitely not a staff — we were a family,” Markin said. “We created that amongst ourselves.”

Dunlap, Ill., senior Austin Gruber, who shared a floor with Wills as an RA, said Wills was always willing to work things out.

“If there was a situation that I didn’t know how to deal with, he would always be the person that I would send a resident to,” Gruber said.

Gruber said Wills was always available for someone to talk to, even himself.

“I can’t count the number of times where I was going through a stressful time and would just go to his room and talk to him,” he said.

Josh Brown, currently the assistant residence hall director of Keen Hall, also worked with Wills when he was an RA in McCormack.

Brown said he could remember a time when a McCormack resident was hurt at an event. He said Wills took the resident to the hospital and sat with him for hours while he got stitches.

“It wasn’t just that one time — there were multiple times where he spent hours with residents just because he was so dedicated,” Brown said. “He cared about so many people.”

Wills left his job as an RA in spring 2011 in order to student-teach.

Markin said he wanted to do both.

“He didn’t want to leave the building — that was his family,” she said.

Wills worked as a student-teacher before he started working at Bristow, a job that Markin said he loved.

“He loved working in the school system,” she said. “He got a lot out of it.”

She said Wills would come by her office to update her on how things were going in the classroom.

“The kids that made him crazy, the ones that he loved, the fun stuff he got to do,” she said.

Markin said Wills saw the connection between his new job as a teacher and his old as an RA.

“He would talk about how he still had to do bulletin boards for the kids. After being an RA, he could do a bulletin board in his sleep, and he was going to show the other teachers what a bulletin board really looked like,” she said.

Both jobs were about helping people, Markin said.

“That’s really what Spencer was about,” she said. “Helping people realize their potential.”