Dan Wheeless – In Memoriam

Dan Wheeless entered our lives just eight months ago as he embarked on a new job- an art and theater teacher here at Wagner High School.  He immediately became deeply involved helping backstage with Sing, Brighton Beach Memoirs, and our recent production of In The Heights.  He was simply amazed with our program and the school.  He would smile and say “this is my dream job.” Dan was humble, kind and generous with his time, talent and patience. He was a great addition to our theatre family and faculty.

 He wanted to know everything, to help anyone, and truly be part of our program.  He dove in, head first, to learn our lighting and sound systems, to help organize backstage,  and make our shows even more spectacular. Last fall he worked on his first Wagner Black Box  production,  and  within that first month or so of the school year, he brought up a close friend of his to assist us with lighting.   He shared his experiences, knowledge and passion with everyone he met.  As the past eight months went by, it was great to have another person to help.  Dan was always there.  There were no hours he wouldn’t put in to lend a hand.  To have someone of his knowledge, ability, strength, size, and eagerness to work was truly a great thing. Dan loved to plan, share and look to “what can we do next.”

 Yet, for as involved as he became in the production of In The Heights, and the program itself, he remained in awe of everything at Wagner.  From the sheer size of the school, to the relationship that so many teachers have with their students- one of respect, understanding, and fun. He was proud and thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the Wagner experience. Sometimes we become too accustomed to what we have around us everyday.  As the new guy on the block, Dan reminded many of us how truly lucky we are everyday to work together with one another at  Wagner, where all subjects and activities get such great support from the entire school.

 As the set for In The Heights rose- mainly from set pieces from past shows- Dan couldn’t stop expressing his wonder, with a great smile on his face, of how such a set came from a seeming “pile of nothing.”   He loved being part of the “project and process,” adding personal touches, watching the students achieve success and sharing in the making of magic on stage.   Dan was doing what he loved.  He was a positive force in our everyday lives, our productions and our world.

The entire Wagner community expresses their deepest condolences to Dan’s family- his wife, Kate Middleton, his parents, Richard and Jeslyn Wheeless, his brother Ben, and his dozens and dozens of friends and other family members.

 Dan may have been part of the Wagner Theater program for far too short a time, but he’ll remain a part of the Wagner Theater family forever, and he will be missed. 

Diane Zerega
Chet Cutick

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