Unsung heroes: Thomas Wilkerson
Any student who has had their picture taken in the GC Bobcat Card Office knows about the Marvel action figure collection tucked away in a corner. Students stopping by for an ID card are often drawn to the colorful collection where characters like Spiderman and Venom stand side by side.
The action figures are the pride of Bobcat Card Office Technician Thomas Wilkerson, who maintains and often adds to his collection. He’s delighted when someone takes an interest.
“It really means a lot to me that other people are so passionate about something I am so passionate about,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson’s co-worker Keeno Weaver has witnessed the pack of superheroes grow over time.
“His collection started off as one or tw
o figures on his desk,” Weaver said with a laugh. “Over time, it has become what it is today: a collection that takes up a whole bookshelf.”
Born in Glascock County, about an hour away from Augusta, Wilkerson was often criticized for his love of comic books while growing up.
“I grew up in a small rural town in Georgia,” Wilkerson said. “There were about 20 people in my graduating class in high school, and all of them liked to hunt and fish. I enjoyed reading comic books, so I was considered the ‘grade school nerd.’”
After graduation, he chose to attend GC for college, in part because of its size.
“It is a small school, and I grew up in a small town, so it felt kind of like my home,” Wilkerson said.
He started at GC as a freshman in 2000 and graduated in 2005. While attending, he decided he wanted to stay and build a career at GC.
Wilkerson worked for a year in private probation before working as a shuttle driver for eight years. Eventually, he applied for a job at the Bobcat Card Office alongside his friend Weaver.
As Bobcat Card Office technicians, the two deal not only with the Bobcat Cards, but they also have many other responsibilities like hosting a lost-and-found in their little office, directing students and answering any questions they might have.
“We deal with all Bobcat Card issues, as well as many others most people don’t know about,” Wilkerson said. “We work on the registers, vending machines, meal plans and door access. We are the gears that make the machine work.”
“If we are doing our job, you never know because you expect it to work,” Weaver said. “When we don’t do our jobs right, that is when you notice, and things start to fall apart.”
The lack of recognition doesn’t bother Wilkerson, though, since recognition isn’t why he does his job.
“I stay at GC because it is the kind of place where if you have a problem and ask anyone here, they would be willing to help,” Wilkerson said. “Also, GC has helped me break out of my shell since I talk to people all day every day, which has made me more sociable.”
While he may love these aspects of his job, what really inspires Wilkerson to keep going is watching the students grow.
“I have been at GC for a long time and watching the students grow up over the four years they are here is what really keeps me here,” Wilkerson said. “There are students that hang out with us every day, and watching them change over the years is what I really love. If one of those students [is] graduating, I’ll go and watch them walk.”
Sophomore Megan Pike, an exercise science major, said her brief encounter with Wilkerson a few weeks before left a lasting impression on her.
“I was getting a new picture for my Bobcat Card,” Pike said. “As I was taking the picture, I saw the collection and started talking to him about it. He was really nice and answered any questions I had about them, since I don’t know much about superheroes besides what I see in movies. It was refreshing after a stressful day.”
While to many these qualities are what define Wilkerson, some only know him for his action figure collection in the his office. While students tend to love his collection, other GC staff didn’t care for it at first.
“The students would see the figures and talk to Thomas about them, but some of the staff seemed to dislike the growing number of figures on the desk,” Weaver said. “I actually went out and bought him the shelf that all of his figures are on because I felt it was important to support his hobby.”
A former student who took a particular liking to the collection was outraged when she thought they were taken away.
“One student in particular took a liking to the figures,” Weaver said. “Once the figures were moved to the bookshelf and they weren’t in their regular spot, she started saying that she would talk to the president of the college to get them back.”
Wilkerson said he appreciates that kind of enthusiasm for his hobby. While he enjoys almost all comics, he has one particular favorite.
“My favorite comic book is ‘The Hulk,’” Wilkerson said. “‘The Hulk’ is my favorite because of his duality. On one side, you have the reserved, genius scientist, and on the other, you have a savage brute. It is relatable to everyone because he represents both sides of humanity, depending on what form he is in.”
While not working or adding to his collection, Wilkerson occupies his time with other activities like reading, painting, collecting vinyl records and playing video games. Some of his favorite books are those by Stephen King because they are imaginative, and make readers think. He likes open-world games, like Skyrim and Fallout, for a similar reason.
However, Wilkerson said collecting action figures is his most meaningful hobby.
“I grew up reading comic books,” Wilkerson said. “I loved comics because they allowed me to dream about becoming something I never could be, in this case a superhero. However, just because I couldn’t be one didn’t mean I didn’t try to be one. Comic books [have] made me try to be the best person I can possibly be.”