Dr. D. Niler Pyeatt
A Love for History
Dr. Pyeatt lived in several different areas growing up, from Colorado to Wyoming to New Mexico. He finished his undergraduate degree at Eastern New Mexico University with a B.A. in history and political science. He then came to Texas for his master’s and doctoral work at Texas Tech University. His primary reading and research interest is in 19th century British diplomatic history, along with teaching fields in modern German history, early and modern Europe and 19th century U.S. history. As a history professor, he says it’s always been something he loves and something he wanted to teach.
“I truly love history. I love to study it, learn about it, research it, talk about it. So, for someone to pay me to talk about something I love and give me a captive audience, you know, it’s just a dream kind of job. You’re not going to get rich as a teacher or college professor, but there’s certainly more to a career or profession than just the financial reward. So having something I love, and being able to share it with others is a dream.”
When asked how he came to love history so well, Dr. Pyeatt responds,
“...I was very close to my grandmother (dad’s mom). Guess you could say she kind of lived in the past. But she was a great story-teller. She could really make the 'olden days' come alive. And she could tell me not only about her life, but she was kind of a repository of our family history. She had great stories about her grandparents and great-grandparents and their coming West experiences. So to me history was not just books, or something that was remote and isolated. History was something that was very much alive. She talked about her parents and grandparents coming West in covered wagons and taught me much about our family history. So history, from the beginning, was this thing that was very much alive to me. It was never just names and dates; these were people… Wish I’d taken the time to take better notes and record more of her stories. It was around the time I graduated from Tech that I really got into it.”
He still pursues family roots in his personal time, and apart from seeking out his family genealogy and history, Dr. Pyeatt is an avid bird watcher. He calls each new outing and new species a “challenge.” One of Wayland’s other biology professors, Dr. Andrew Kasner, and he have turned bird watching into serious birding trips; Dr. Pyeatt has quite the life-list of species of birds at this point and he has to travel out to different regions to spot new birds. One notable birding experience he’s had was spotting and identifying the 14th Common Redpoll to ever appear in Texas.
Dr. Pyeatt may love birding and history, but his favorite parts of Wayland are his students.
“It has always been the students. As a historian, I love my reading and research and studies, but it’s been the students. Over the years, I can think of some wonderful students I’ve had. Most students are really good, but there are some who just stand out; who I always remember and who have become friends; who I like to think I helped mentor into becoming historians in their own right. I keep in contact with many of them. I wish I kept in contact with more, but, yeah...It’s the students that keep me coming back.”