Monday, November 06, 2006

Robert S. Wilson, Board President

With the recent election of Mark R. Tercek '75 as president of the WRA Board of Trustees, we now have the ninth person to serve in this capacity since WRA was reorganized in 1916. It should be noted that among the previous eight board presidents, Robert S. Wilson holds the record for service which likely will not soon be surpassed. He was named president in 1941 following the sudden death of Warren M. Bicknell and served until his retirement in 1967.

Robert S. Wilson, son of a Presbyterian minister, went to Shadyside Academy and was a graduate of Princeton, class of 1910, where he was a member of both the wrestling and swimming teams. He had a long career with Goodyear in Akron, retiring as a vice president. But it is interesting to learn that he himself had a background in teaching, having taught Latin for two years at Lawrenceville before entering the field of business.

Mr. Wilson was elected to the WRA Board of Trustees in 1936, so he already had ten years of service by the time Dr. Hayden retired in 1946 and the search for a new headmaster began. It was at this point that fellow trustee Robert C. Brouse '31 proposed that Wilson himself be considered for the job. He declined the nomination, but was very much a part of the committee that brought John W. Hallowell to the school as headmaster. Together, Hallowell and Wilson worked for the well-being of WRA for the next 21 years. In 1963 the school dedicated Wilson Hall, the home of both the science department and the library, and named it in honor of the longtime board president. When the headmaster retired in 1967, Mr. Wilson also retired as board president and was succeeded by Robert C. Brouse. He passed away in 1970 at the age of 80.

Robert S. Wilson's two sons, John '35 and David '38, were both WRA graduates, and David
served on the Board of Trustees from 1958 to 1981, much of the time as board secretary. He now lives in Portland, Oregon, with his son, David, Jr.'63. Another son is Robert S. Wilson II '65. Many alumni are familiar with the portrait of Robert S. Wilson (on right) that graces Wilson Hall, but we are also posting a photo of him (above) taken about the time he became board president in 1941.

Upon his passing away in 1970, Wilson was eulogized by former Headmaster John W. Hallowell who wrote, "...all who knew him were infected with the joy and goodness he found in life. And joy was there because of his simple faith, his never-failing hope, his selfless love... " One can read more about Robert S. Wilson in Robert F. Pryce's book, The Hallowell Years (1980).