The President’s Letter: Winter 2024

The President’s Letter: Winter 2024

I used to think that there could not be a person more in love with Wilson College than me. And then I met Virginia Gehr Stackel ’39.

On November 10, Marybeth Famulare, one of our directors of major gifts in Institutional Advancement, and I had the pleasure of visiting with Virginia, just a couple of months prior to her 106th birthday, making her the oldest living donor to Wilson. I have had hundreds of visits with alums since becoming the president of Wilson, and this visit will certainly be a highlight. Each of us can only hope that if we are granted the good fortune to live as long as Virginia has, that we also remain as sharp and engaging as she. Virginia is remarkable!

She was so excited to meet us. She was waiting wearing Wilson blue and silver beads around her neck, and when she learned of my title, she was deeply honored that she would be hosting the president. I wish I could adequately describe her excitement. It was incredibly touching.

Virginia remembered every detail of her Wilson education. She recited the names of those who lived on her floor and what room they lived in. She regaled us with stories of her professors and staff members. Perhaps most touchingly, she recited every word of the Alma Mater, which we did together a few times. This brought much joy to this music loving president.

Her story is an amazing reminder of the power of Wilson. Virginia was the daughter of a pastor and received a half scholarship to attend the College. But after two years, her father was struggling to afford Wilson. When offered a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, she transferred. She described it as one of the worst days of her life. She loved Wilson and the people she had met here; she didn’t want to leave. But she felt she had no choice.

Her story resonated with me deeply. Even today, we have students who cannot afford the benefit of a transformative Wilson education without the help of financial aid. I hope that with your help, we can prevent another Virginia from having to lose the education that she deserves and so badly wants. That is exactly what the We Rise campaign is all about: ensuring that our students, faculty, and staff have the resources they need to receive and deliver a transformative education, and that Wilson continues to grow and thrive into the future.

Virginia closed our conversation by telling me that she doesn’t have much, but she gives what she can because she wants others to experience what she had to give up. I let her know that she was doing just that, and for decades she loyally has.

After the challenging last few years, my visit with Virginia was such an incredible reminder of how important my work is. Our time together will always be some- thing I treasure. Virginia, thank you for your loyalty to Wilson. And thank you for your generosity to make sure future students get to benefit from a Wilson education.

Wesley R. Fugate, Ph.D.

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