This is the second in a series of stories heralding the many great people of the University of Findlay and the ways they support our mission of preparing students for meaningful lives and productive careers.
Depending on one’s experience, there are different definitions of “family.” Biological. Adopted. Friends-as-family. Fortunately, for DeMya Wimberly, a 1994 graduate of University of Findlay and the current board president for the UF Board of Governors, there has never been a want for any form of family, even when he moved from Hollywood, Florida, where he grew up, to attend college in the late 80s.
The oldest of two siblings–Wimberly’s younger brother Dedrick, whom he calls his idol for serving two terms in Iraq, now protects folks stateside as a Texas State Trooper–DeMya comes from what he calls a “very loving and strict” family who kept an eye on him. His mother, Shirley, worked for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, and six aunts and two uncles also helped make sure the boys didn’t have “much leeway” in the way of wandering off the right path.
He also had an athletic family at Miramar High School in Florida, one that was led by head football coach John Maronto, one of DeMya’s first real mentors on the gridiron. Wimberly was a quarterback at Miramar, and a fine one at that; in fact, good enough that Coach Maronto, who, prior to Miramar had coached at football powerhouse Massillon High School in Ohio, happened to recommend him to a college coach up in Ohio he knew. A coach by the name of Dick Strahm from Findlay College. “Coach Strahm came to my high school and sat in my living room,” Wimberly said. “He told me I had a good chance to play right away, and so, not too long after visiting Findlay, I officially became an Oiler.”
Though he knew he would miss both families back in Florida, biological and high school, he knew fairly quickly that he had a meaningful and important one in his newfound home of Findlay. There were many people at school who continued to keep him on the right track to success. “I truly enjoyed my experience at Findlay, even though I created both ups and downs,” he said. “I admittedly didn’t always apply myself as I should have academically, which landed me in [former professor, associate dean, and academic coach] Don Collins’ office a lot.”
While faculty and staff kept a watchful eye on DeMya and other students, it was his football teammates and coaches who really became special to him. It had been thirteen years since Findlay had first celebrated a national championship when Wimberly’s Oiler squad won one again in 1992. “We had a Hall of Fame coach and a great staff coupled with a team on a mission,” he said. “It all culminated into that national title.”
DeMya, a member of the first class of students to attend Findlay as it transformed from Findlay College to University of Findlay in 1989, now has something in common with Coach Strahm. “In 2004, I got the call that I would be in the University’s Hall of Fame,” he recalled. “This was particularly special because I remember when the HOF was in Croy Gymnasium, and I always stopped to gaze at the plaques, thinking ‘one day I will be up there.’” It was just ten years earlier, he noted proudly, that he “headed out through the Griffith Memorial Arch with a degree in sociology and a National Title in hand.”
Wimberly is currently at The University of Toledo as a success coach, where he’s been for almost six years, working with students, athletes, and those, like he was, who are both. It’s not lost on him that he is now the type of person that he, himself, relied on for help as a student. “I love having the opportunity to help others along their college journey,” he said. “I also serve on The Board of Governors, an opportunity presented to me by [assistant director of admissions at UF] Dee Dee Spraw, someone whom I have a tremendous amount of appreciation and respect for. It brings me joy to see new graduates on their graduation day, ready to head out into the world with their own special experiences and stories. We have a great board at UF and we work together to make events special.”
Family, by any definition, it seems, is something that DeMya Wimberly is proud of. As the Wimberly family has been extended to include DeMya’s wife of twenty-four years, Lisa, three grown children, Jordan, Keianna and DeNay, and a grandchild, Lylah, he looks forward to the rest of the meaningful life that his UF family set him up for. “My time at UF taught me the importance of relationships, giving back, and always pushing forward despite obstacles. I love going back and seeing old teammates, coaches, and how much the University has grown and the direction that it’s headed in. And, as a board member, it’s an honor to give back to a University that’s personally given me so much.”