Grounds director is ‘Wizard of Oz’ of BYU’s campus

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Glenl Wear, with an elevated office remotely located on the southeast boundary of BYU’s campus, has been referred to by some as the “Wizard of Oz” of BYU.

A self-proclaimed “army brat” who had lived in 28 different states by the time he was 14 years old, Wear is the director of physical facilities and grounds for BYU, and as with the mythical overseer of Oz, there is rarely an event that goes on on campus that the unseen Wear, and the department he is in charge of, is not involved with.

“The one thing the public misses is that there’s not an activity that goes on on this campus that doesn’t impact grounds in some way. People don’t think about it,” Wear said. “When there’s a volleyball match, there’s someone that comes in afterwards and cleans up the trash; or there’s a basketball game and grounds is there sweeping snow to keep the sidewalks safe. Everything impacts the grounds department, and it’s easy to overlook that.”

BYU's Director of Physical Facilities and Grounds, Glenl Wear and his wife. (Photo courtesy of Stacey Meldrum)
BYU’s director of physical facilities and grounds, Glenl Wear, and his wife Merrilee. (Courtesy Wear family file)

Since January of 1982, when he first came to BYU to pursue a degree in landscape management, Wear has been taking care of BYU’s grounds. It wasn’t until October of 2013 that he officially took over as director of grounds for the retiring Roy Peterman.

“I’ve been here way longer than I ever thought,” Wear said. “I came here to get my education, figured I’d be here five years. I spent 15 years as pest control supervisor, 15 years as landscape specialty manager, and now I’m the director.”

From construction to gardening, pruning trees to picking up garbage, Wear’s job description is no small task. He is in charge of the 750 acres of grounds that comprise BYU’s campus, including the Provo Temple and MTC. This includes approximately 100,000 shrubs, 95,000 sprinkler heads, 18,000 trees, 400 buildings, 72 miles of sidewalk and almost 13 miles of road.

Wear’s department is also responsible for taking care of all the wildlife that students see on BYU’s campus. Whether it’s relocating an influx of ducks on campus or keeping the numbers of wild cats down, there seems to be a never-ending struggle of finding a mix between beauty and safety.

“Wildlife is beautiful; we love to see them, but too many people underestimate the potential of harm they can inflict,” Wear said. “We have a six-point buck on campus that’s too wily for us. He’s escaped us several times.”

Wear also oversees 45 full-time employees and 400 student employees in the summer.

“It makes it tough to get to know them all by name,” Wear said. “When I was managing, I would try to get to know everyone by name, but I can’t keep up now.”

Caring about people is not just important to Wear but also the favorite part of his job.

“My favorite part of my job is the people. The people I work with are the best,” Wear said. “You can’t go anywhere else and find the caliber of people that there are here at BYU. And I don’t care where you go.”

Wear’s desire to develop strong relationships with those around him does not go unnoticed.

“He’s incredible,” said Stacey Meldrum, the administrative assistant for grounds, who has known Wear for nearly seven years. “He is the epitome of ‘seeks first to understand and then to be understood.'”

Besides an obvious love for taking care of physical nature, Wear has a love of taking care of his physical body.

“I developed a passion for weightlifting,” Wear said. “There’s just something about it; it’s therapeutic.”

From construction to gardening, pruning trees to picking up garbage, Glenl’s job description is no small task. He is in charge of the 750 acres of grounds that cover BYU’s campus, as well as the wildlife that is found on it. (Photo by Cody Melnyk)
From construction to gardening, pruning trees to picking up garbage, Glenl Wear is in charge of the 750 acres of grounds that comprise BYU’s campus, as well as the wildlife that is found on it. (Cody Melnyk)

While he may not push as much weight as he used to due to several workout-related injuries, including having his left shoulder completely rebuilt in 2009, Wear hits the BYU gym every day during his lunch break. He does some conditioning and thirty minutes of cardio.

While Wear may not be able to tell you his favorite movie or song, he is quick to reply with his favorite book.

“My very favorite book, and this may sound corny, is the ‘Book of Mormon,'” Wear said. “I read from it every day. I’ve read it so many times, I can’t even count anymore. I find strength, solace and direction in it.”

Wear seeks all the heavenly direction he can get as he, along with the help of his wife of over 30 years, currently serves as the bishop of the Provo YSA 124th Ward.

“It is the best calling I have ever had,” Wear said. “We saw 130 kids leave on missions the first year President Monson changed the missionary age. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Whatever the environment, whether it’s in his campus office or bishop’s office, Wear hopes to be remembered as someone who cared and tried to make a difference.

“The most important thing to me is that I cared about the people,” Wear said. “I’m passionate about the industry; I’m knowledgeable in the industry. I really want to be successful that way, but to do that you have to have good people.”

As for continuing to be thought of as the “Wizard of Oz,” the unseen man behind the scenes, Wear is more than comfortable with that.

“I don’t need to be the guy that everybody knows. I just need to know that the people out there can be counted on to do their job, and I can give them what they need to put it all together.”

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