WJBC Forum: Thank you President Wilson

(WJBC file photo)

By Mike Matejka

This week Illinois Wesleyan University President Richard Wilson announced his retirement.  President Wilson is a quiet, warm personality, who has done great things for IWU and I wanted to publicly praise him.

When he became the University’s President eleven years ago, he followed the sad passing of much-loved Minor Myers Jr.  Minor was a larger than life character, an amazing intellectual and an engaging personality that left his mark on campus.  Dick Wilson is more low key, but has been equally persistent and passionate not only about Wesleyan, but also about this community.

The campus was transformed physically under Dick Wilson’s tenure and financially stabilized, with some very impressive fund-raising.  There are new buildings and artwork that makes the IWU campus a very attractive place.

What I most want to commend President Wilson and IWU for is their community involvement.  On Wesleyan’s campus there is a program called the Action Resource Center, headed by Deb Halperin.  The ten-year-old ARC mirrors President Wilson’s leadership style.  The ARC is a door that numerous community organizations have knocked on, seeking help with programs to aid disadvantaged local citizens.  IWU students and faculty then work through the ARC to connect.  Bloomington-Normal gains from the energy of these involved young people and these young people are exposed to different parts of life that might be new to them.   Wesleyan also has a Center for Human Rights and Social Justice, another opportunity for students to learn not only locally, but globally, about the challenges our world faces.   The student handbook encourages involvement and volunteering in the community.

Too often these days a college degree is just seen as a compulsory ticket to a decent job.  A college education should produce thoughtful, well-rounded people, who can think critically but also share a world view larger than their office cubicle.  President Wilson, through supporting programs like the Action Resource Center and the Center for Human Rights, is helping produce those thoughtful future leaders our world desperately needs.

In my encounters with IWU President Dick Wilson, I am always greeted with a warm smile.  If there’s time to talk, it is always a very thoughtful conversation.   Not only has his leadership made a stronger Illinois Wesleyan University, but by opening the campus to the community, he has made a better McLean County.  So thank you Dick Wilson and I hope you and Pat enjoy your well-deserved retirement.

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