Jay Villemarette – Moore Norman Technology Center & SkillsUSA
CareerTech made such an impact he could feel it in his bones.
THEN: A self-conscious 17-year-old with an unusual hobby and no plans for his future. It was back in the ’80s when Jay Villemarette decided to enroll in Moore Norman Technology Center’s auto body course because he liked working with his hands. He didn’t know at the time that this decision would shape his future.
The auto body program taught the high school junior how to repair vehicles, but the personal and professional life lessons Villemarette learned from his MNTC instructor were even more valuable.
“Moore Norman is one of the first places I felt valued as a person,” he said. “And I owe much of my self-confidence to my instructor, Jim Opdyke. What he saw in me – at 17 – was something I didn’t see yet.”
One of the first lessons he learned was the importance of following through with the projects he started. Villemarette represented his class at the state SkillsUSA contest and placed third in the auto body competition. He went on to win fifth place at the national convention. Self-confidence was winning over self-consciousness.
It was the process of self-discovery that gave him the confidence to follow his true passion, which had absolutely nothing to do with cars. That passion started as a hobby when he was just a child.
How it all started
When Villemarette was 7 years old, he found a canine skull in the woods. He was fascinated by it, and with his father’s help he began collecting other skulls. By high school, he was selling them while he worked as an auto body technician.
Several decades later, what started as an unusual hobby is now a successful family business. Villemarette and his wife started Skulls Unlimited International, a mail-order company that services customers from around the world. Again, this is where his newfound self-confidence came into play.
“I created a market where a market hadn’t existed,” he said. “I brought skulls and skull collecting into the mainstream market and made skulls and skeletons available to the educational and science communities.”
Villemarette has supplied skeletons and skulls to many well-known museums, including the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.; the American Museum of Natural History in New York; and the Field Museum in Chicago. His company processes about 30,000 skulls or skeletons a year, making it the largest supplier of osteological specimens in the world. It was even featured on “Dirty Jobs” and “Modern Marvels”.
In 2010, Villemarette opened the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City. There, visitors can see a Komodo dragon skeleton that was a presidential gift to George H.W. Bush; a complete 40-foot humpback whale skeleton; and much more.
NOW: All three of his sons work for Skulls Unlimited with him and his wife, and two of the young men took courses at MNTC.
“These classes have done for my sons what it did for me,” Villemarette said. “I attribute much of my work ethic and self-confidence to my time at CareerTech.”
“CareerTech made an impact on my life that changed me forever.” Jay Villemarette, Skulls Unlimited