It is midnight and a vacuum begins to whir on the fourth floor of the 18th Avenue Library, and for a moment a few students look up from their books and laptops.
Wyatt Ward is a custodian and a contractor from Goodwill Columbus who works the graveyard shift — 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. — when campus is quiet. He has been at Ohio State since 2010.
For Ward, the 18th Avenue Library has significance.
“This was my first job — it was kind of hard to find one that would help me,” Ward said. “I have Asperger’s. It’s just a collection of basically random social disabilities.”
Ward listens to music at work, and his favorite musical group is Pink Floyd. He said that he relates to their album “The Wall.”
“In a way I kinda … built a wall,” Ward said. “I used to be very shut in, didn’t really like to talk to people.”
He said that physical and verbal bullying during his middle school years contributed to his trouble interacting with people and that it was hard to talk with others.
Ward said his employment through Goodwill helped him learn to communicate with people and break through his wall by taking the anxiety out of interacting with others.
“Before I started here I had maybe one, maybe two friends,” Ward said. “I have plenty of friends now.”
“It took him about a year to get comfortable with us,” said Elizabeth Hostetter, area manager for Goodwill Columbus and Ward’s boss. “If everybody was in the breakroom, he’d be the one in the corner. He’s definitely blossomed.”
Along with his duties at the 18th Avenue Library, Ward locks the doors at night for Thompson Library, Independence Hall and Ohio Stadium.
His abilities extend further than this — he said he is good at algebra and more abstract forms of math.
“Really in a way I just look at it as kinda like a language that you have to learn,” Ward said. “I’m not really sure honestly how I understand it.”
He said that when he was in kindergarten, it became apparent that he had Asperger’s, and he was told his abilities would be limited.
“They weren’t sure if I was going to be able to get a job or not,” Ward said. “Now that I look back at it … (I would have) probably worked harder during school and got better grades instead of being lazy.”
Ward said he is interested in moving out of his parent’s house and into an apartment, like many of the students he walks past on any given night.
He added that the greatest thing he has learned about dealing with people since he started work with Goodwill and joined OSU is patience.
“Everyone has their own opinions and feelings and their circumstances that might have not been the best, so just have the patience,” he said.