Name a place that’s little known but steeped in history—and kind of dangerous—and Don Wildman has likely explored it for the BBC, Discovery Channel and ESPN, or on Mysteries at the Museum and Monumental Mysteries, his current Travel Channel shows.
That sense of adventure was evident in Wildman as a teenager-—and it’s why Westtown School, with its international student body, was such a good environment for him. The first day of class, Wildman met Ben Hartman, who’s still his best friend. Hartman’s father was the American ambassador to the Soviet Union. “I later visited the U.S.S.R. as their guest, which is pretty extraordinary for a kid from Pitman, N.J.,” says Wildman, who graduated in 1979.
Westtown’s Quaker foundation and boarding-school-enhanced camaraderie were positive influences on Wildman. So were Earl Fowler, the school’s librarian, and Al Hay, a history professor. Hay would “pull down a huge map, and he’d have us transfixed as he spoke about current events around the world,” Wildman says. “I was entranced by the way he was presenting the information.”
Fowler encouraged Wildman to explore acting. “He was a mentor for two years, which sounds like a short time but can be an eon for a kid,” says Wildman, who has stayed in touch with Fowler who, at age 92, is still writing plays.