Alumni Spotlight: Tim Wright (’96)
Tim Wright (’96) was a member of the second graduating class of the Governor’s School for Government and International Studies. “The school was still considered an experiment for everyone in and around Richmond,” he recalls. Any student choosing GSGIS then knew they would be dealing with lots of unknowns and unusual circumstances. There was only one trailblazing class of students ahead of the ’96-ers, and the fledgling school shared a building with Thomas Jefferson High School. But, like many of our earliest alumni, Tim remembers Governor’s School’s early days fondly. “My first memories had everything to do with feeling free of arbitrary restraints of traditional public schools and being dedicated to making sure GSGIS was as much a student-identified institution as humanly possible.”
After high school, Tim attended Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studied government, international relations, women’s studies, photography, and multiple foreign languages, graduating with a degree in political science. He knew he wanted to pursue a career in the field of education. “The world we live isn’t arbitrary, it’s a result of human decision making,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to teach people how to make it the best world they see fit.” After working in museum education at the Children’s Museum of Richmond, he moved to DC to teach civics and American history at an education non-profit, Close Up Foundation. He then moved to the National Building Museum, where he worked in museum education and teacher professional development.
“I was tasked with shaping a new position created to work with educators, helping them use the built environment in classroom teaching,” he explains. “The built environment includes all built structures and the designed spaces between them. It also includes the methods we use to create our world: construction, architecture, engineering, urban planning, landscape architecture, so on and so forth. I had the freedom to experiment with big ideas, build prototypes, and evaluate programs before widespread distribution, including a fair amount of travel across the country.”
Tim recently left the National Building Museum to start his own civics education company. “Initially, I focused on helping participants understand how the U.S. House of Representatives works to fulfill the responsibilities of the legislative branch and how we can use that knowledge to become better citizens,” Tim says. “We do this by guiding the participants through Hill office buildings, sitting in on Congressional hearings and visiting Representative offices. The second wave of the business has involved developing interpretive tours, of memorials and monuments in DC. The company is named Attucks Adams; after Crispus Attucks, the first casualty in the American Revolution; and John Adams, the first President to live in the White House.”
“So far the best part has been being able to do the research and work I am most invested in on a personal level,” Tim says of starting his own venture. Attucks Adams now offers guided walking tours of Capitol Hill, DC monuments and memorials, and DC neighborhoods, as well as bus tours for small groups, all shaped by Tim’s interests and expertise. What would Tim tell someone visiting DC not to miss? “I would have to say Capitol Hill. From the history embedded in the Capitol Building itself, to having the ability examine the legislative process up close in the Congressional galleries and committee rooms, it’s one of the most important physical manifestations of American democracy.”
Tim has also remained involved with Governor’s School since his graduation. He served for ten years as a class agent for the Foundation’s annual fund alumni campaigns. In March of 2016, he spoke at Alumni Showcase. “I walked away impressed that 1) the school continues to embrace our diverse alumni in creative ways; and 2) current students were such a big part of the success of the day,” he says. “They showed that GSGIS is still making a good case for its existence and the students represent the school well.” He also attended his 20th reunion in October of 2016. Like many alumni, Tim has kept in touch with lots of his former classmates. “However,” he says, “getting to see and converse with everyone in a relaxed setting over an entire weekend was really special. I’d say there are two dozen or more former classmates that I’ve built a better, more consistent relationship in the years after 1996 than while we were at GSGIS. I also took 10 minutes to drive by the building that we called home, Thomas Jefferson High School. All of my GSGIS memories still live in this timeless building and my mom also attended TJ, so it’s a special place for me.”
The 2017-18 Annual Fund supports all of the Foundation’s programming for and about alumni.