The following obituary was written by Maija-Liisa Young and published in the Sacramento bee on May 8, 2004.
Robert Wyman had major impact on theater in capital
Robert Wyman co-founded the first year-round community theater in Sacramento in 1956 and along with his father, Justus Wyman, ran JayRob Productions for nearly two decades.
“He had such an impact on theater in this area,” said longtime friend Jean Runyon, who performed in many of the company’s plays with her husband. “He made it possible to make people think community theater can exist.”
Mr. Wyman, who was an educator by day and a theater director and producer by night, died in his Elk Grove home from complications of kidney failure and prostrate cancer May 1, four days before his 75th birthday.
Diana Wyman said her husband of 45 years was in “perpetual motion.”
“He always said no one needed more than four hours of sleep at night,” she said. “He would teach all day, have a rehearsal at school and then JayRob at night.”
The company, named for the partners’ nicknames, began showing comedies on weekends in Ellissa Sharree’s Theatre, an old fire station in downtown Sacramento.
JayRob Playhouse was built behind the Sacramento Inn in the 1960s. The company eventually branched out, showing avant-garde theater, children’s theater and musicals. A summer theater program for youth also was created.
Runyon, founder of the public relations firm Runyon, Saltzman, Einhorn, said Mr. Wyman always encouraged the actors and crew.
“He could bring out the best in actors and correct their timing and make it clearer, sharper and crisper,” she said.
Mr. Wyman sold the company in 1973, two years after his father died.
Mr. Wyman was born in San Francisco to Justus and Alice Wyman, who were vaudeville performers in the early 1920s. The family moved to Sacramento during World War II.
A 1948 graduate of C.K. McClatchy High School, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech and drama from Sacramento State College. He also received a teaching credential from the school.
He briefly worked for McClatchy Broadcasting, before being drafted into the Korean War. After serving two years as a public information officer for the U.S. Army, he was discharged in 1956.
Once out of the service, he began teaching drama at Sacramento High School and attended the University of California, Berkeley, for postgraduate work. After a few years, he became Sacramento City College’s drama teacher.
Mr. Wyman became the college’s community services director in the 1960s. In the 1970s, he helped open Consumes River College, and was its associate dean of instruction.
A few years later, Mr. Wyman went to American River College as its vice president of instruction. He also served as director of special projects/development for the Los Rios Community College District, where he stayed until retiring in 1984.
Throughout all the career moves and play productions, Mr. Wyman put his family first.
“We always had dinner together,” his wife said. “He just loved the kids. If he had to go to the theater on a Saturday or Sunday, when they were little, we would go with him.”
Mr. Wyman was also interested in how to access education with technology by having computer and television courses, said longtime friend Dave Leveille, who was the deputy director of the state’s Postsecondary Education Commission.
After retiring, Mr. Wyman created The Wyman Group, his own consulting company, which specialized in distance education and technology. In addition, he served on a number of boards that had the same goal, including the California State Master Plan for Distance Education.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters from the Korean International University in 1994 for his consultant work helping minority colleges become accredited in the western United States. A year later, he was invited to tour China and lecture at its universities.
For the past 15 years he was on the board of directors for Schools Financial Credit Union, of which he was a member since 1956.
Mr. Wyman, a past commodore of the Sacramento Yacht Club, loved boats. At one time he had 13 boats that he restored. When out-of-town friends visited, he took them boating, Leveille said.
Born: May 5, 1929
Died: May 1, 2004
Remembered for: Bringing the first year-round community theater to Sacramento as a partner in JayRob Productions and for being a longtime educator.
Survived by: Wife, Diana Wyman of Elk Grove; daughters, Wendi Bucey of Paradise and Kerri Warner of Sacramento; sister, Shirley Farinha of Gold River; and five grandchildren
Services: Will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Jean Runyon Theatre in Memorial Auditorium, 1515 J St., Sacramento