For more than 20 years, William Hyatt ’84 has been serving the homeless population in Central Texas with care and compassion. As advisor for the Open Door Ministry program at University United Methodist Church in Austin, Hyatt helps lead efforts to provide food, toiletry items, and clothing to more than 700 homeless people every Saturday morning. But he does more than hand out much-needed items; he provides hope and strength to those who need it most.

“Will became a personal mentor for many guests, a role that previous program leaders (including myself) had not even considered,” says fellow volunteer Harry Swinney, who met Hyatt through the program around 2001. “He mentored many guests who subsequently became faithful volunteers each Saturday. Further, under Will’s mentorship a number of the guests were able to obtain regular jobs and housing.”

One such individual is Charles Guidry, who used to sleep on a piece of cardboard in the parking lot of the church on Friday nights so he wouldn’t miss the next morning’s program. Hyatt mentored Guidry, who ultimately began managing the kitchen volunteers. Guidry later obtained a job and stable housing, and he currently serves on the Open Door board. In 2022, Guidry received the AARP Texas Andrus Award for Community Service.

Hyatt, an arborist by trade, also serves as board vice president and chaplain for House the Homeless , a nonprofit organization that works to combat, end, and prevent homelessness in Texas and across North America. He has long served as a key volunteer during the organization’s annual HUGSS (which stands for hats, underthermals, gloves, scarfs, and socks) event. Hundreds of homeless people turn out on New Year’s Day each year to receive backpacks full of gear and other supplies to help them get through the winter. Hyatt also actively seeks out individuals experiencing homelessness and builds lasting relationships with them.

“Will regularly goes deep into area encampments with healthy drinks, supplies, tents, and more. He also gives out cell phones, asking his homeless friends to help others connect with family, along with 31-day bus passes for transportation to social services and more,” says Cecilia B. Blanford, president and co-founder of House the Homeless. “We created a copyrighted plastic pocket resource guide with dozens of resources and supports for individuals experiencing homelessness, and Will has been instrumental in distributing thousands of these directly to our unhoused neighbors.”

Hyatt also has stepped up to support the community during times of crisis. During the pandemic, Hyatt delivered food and supplies to families living in their cars after they lost their jobs and were displaced. When a devastating winter storm hit Texas in February 2021, bringing with it subfreezing temperatures and widespread power outages, Hyatt helped secure masks, personal hygiene supplies, and winter clothing for those in need and delivered hot soup to nursing home residents who had to take shelter in a church after their facility lost power.

In addition to his work with the homeless population, Hyatt has also been involved with the Young Men’s Service League, a nonprofit that provides opportunities for mothers and their teenage sons to serve their communities together, and the River City Youth Foundation, which provides youth and family-oriented programs focused on technology training, college and career readiness, mentoring, wellness, and community development.

“Will is an outstanding advocate for the underserved and misunderstood population,” says Howard Moore ’82, who met Hyatt at Southwestern, where both were members of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. “He receives no remuneration for his work and doesn’t strive for personal recognition for his efforts; as he has told me many times, it is a calling to serve God.”

For his unwavering commitment to the homeless population and community at large, the Southwestern University Alumni Association is proud to honor William Hyatt with the Distinguished Humanitarian Award.