Summer 2023 / Features

We Rise. United for Wilson’s Future.

We kick off a funding campaign to secure the College’s future and fulfill her mission to provide a first-class education to generations in perpetuity.

In 1869, Wilson College rose as a beacon of quality education and hope from the literal ashes of the Rosedale Seminary and Col. A.K. McClure’s Norland estate, both burned to the ground during the Civil War. The College came into being thanks to a donation from an enigmatic, deeply religious, and formally uneducated woman, Sarah Wilson. Her donation of $30,000 (approximately $500,000 today) secured the McClure property and encouraged others to invest in the ambitious project to educate future generations. Her simple act of generosity and foresight has changed the lives of students and their families for over a century and a half.

In this special issue of Wilson Magazine, we celebrate and pay tribute to the many current donors, the modern-day Sarah Wilsons, who make the College a vibrant and relevant institution in the lives of thousands today. You will also meet some of the students who have benefitted directly from our alumnae, alumni, and friends’ philanthropy. And, we invite you to participate in the We Rise: United for Wilson’s Future campaign and help make a Wilson education accessible to generations of students to come.

Wilson’s history, from her inception, has always been one of innovation and adaptability. The Rev. Dr. Tyron Edwards, one of the two Presbyterian ministers who founded the College, originally intended to simply replace the burned-down Rosedale Seminary (an institution that prepared young women to teach). However, when Edwards approached the Rev. James Wightman, the second of the College’s founders, the latter insisted on creating “a first-class college, affording to young women facilities for a first-class education such as now afforded by first-class colleges to men.” Thus, the College’s mission to look to the future to best serve her students and provide them with a first-class education was woven into her fabric from the beginning.

Wilson is proud of her history and how her past informs her present, and her present builds her future. The College continues to burn with a bold passion for providing a first-class education and fostering a community of learners who will go on to be first-class leaders, innovators, creators, and citizens. Throughout her history, this small but mighty college has faced internal and external challenges and, on every occasion, has evolved to meet the students’ needs without ever losing sight of her mission to educate and empower.


Today, as we emerge from a global pandemic, the College, with your help, will rise once more and educate generations to come the Wilson way. The pandemic has changed the world. Work practices and education modalities have had to adapt to a new reality. “Zoom” has become a household word, and entire industries have been upended while others have soared. For institutions of higher education, the last few years have presented particular difficulties. Many have suffered enrollment setbacks with ensuing financial losses, and in a tight employment market, many potential students have even questioned the value of a degree. These, combined with a demographic “cliff face,” where the number of college-age young people will decrease dramatically over the next few years, means colleges and universities will have to overcome multiple and disparate challenges at once.


Luckily, Wilson acted early and decisively to analyze and address these issues and find solutions. Our five-year strategic plan, Future Wilson: The Phoenix Rises: 2021 to 2025, maps the road to a stable and secure future for the College. It identifies remedies for challenges, such as a significant debt load, an endowment limited in growth due to high spending, the deferred maintenance of buildings and grounds, and the compensation of faculty and staff. The plan was developed under the leadership of Wesley R. Fugate, Ph.D., the College’s 20th president, and you can download it on the president’s page at

Just as the two founding ministers needed donors to make their dream of a first-class college come to fruition, we need your help to make the strategic plan fulfill its potential. You, too, can take a leaf from Sarah Wilson’s book and help perpetuate the original vision for a first-class college that empowers students for generations to come.

The We Rise: United for Wilson’s Future campaign is the vehicle for funding the strategic plan and securing the College’s future. It breaks the funding into five crucial pillars (listed on the following pages), each one vital to the overall success of the plan. And we’ve gotten off to the best possible start with an anonymous donor funding the Debt Reduction Fund’s goal of $2 million, in its entirety.



Scholarships GOAL: $4.5 MILLION

The focus on scholarships embodies Wilson’s commitment to providing access to an affordable, quality education to all students. While Wilson has taken strategic steps to maintain a competitive tuition rate, the availability of state and federal financial aid has not kept pace with the cost of attaining a higher education degree. To that end, the We Rise campaign seeks $4.5 million in scholarships for student support.

Growth Initiatives GOAL $2 MILLION

The We Rise campaign seeks $2 million to support future academic and co-curricular programming aimed at expanding Wilson College’s offer- ings to ensure we meet the academic requirements and personal needs of current and future generations of students. To sustain its mission, the College must strengthen and expand its footprint in the online higher education space, explore new degree offerings to meet the needs of the future workforce, provide engaging co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities, and increase student retention.

Faculty & Staff Support GOAL: $1.5 MILLION

Recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty and staff and then ensuring that they have access to the technology, resources, and facilities required to deliver a quality Wilson education to today’s students and future Phoenix is the focus of this funding area. Whether it is updating technology in classrooms, caring for our buildings and grounds, or simply helping to offset the significant cost of benefits for our employees, faculty and staff support is an important part of the We Rise campaign. To that end, the Campaign seeks $1.5 million in support of faculty and staff initiatives.

Debt Reduction Fund GOAL: $2 MILLION

Over time, Wilson College has amassed a significant debt load due to various capital projects. Institutional debt totaling almost $35 million is much too high for a college of our size to carry successfully. Additionally, the debt requires meeting challenging covenants, further limiting the institution. Thus, the We Rise campaign seeks $2 million towards the retirement ACHIEVED of institutional debt.

Wilson Fund & Unrestricted Giving GOAL: $6 MILLION

The Wilson Fund, the College’s annual fund, has long been the place where alumnae, alumni, parents, friends, and students demonstrate their commitment and support of the institution through their yearly gifts. The We Rise campaign includes a $3 million goal for the Wilson Fund as well as a $3 million goal for other unrestricted giving.

We Rise Campaign Leadership

Honorary Co-Chairs
Marguerite Brooks Lenfest ’55
Susan Breakefield Fulton ’61

Margaret Hamilton Duprey
Lisbeth S. Luka ’69, M.Ed.

Robin J. Bernstein, Esq.

Campaign Committee
Jennifer Nickle Banzhof ’94
Cynthia Dimmick Grove ’63
Jane Everhart Murray ’67
James A. Orsini, D.V.M.
Julia Solleveld Osborne ’64
Gail E. Saxton ’81
Barbara L. Tenney ’67, M.D.
Betty Lou Leedom Thompson ’60
Janelle S. Wills ’14, V.M.D.

Presidents Emeriti Honorary Members
Mary-Linda Sorber Merriam Armacost, Ph.D.
Lorna Duphiney Edmundson, Ed.D.
Gwendolyn Evans Jensen, Ph.D.
Barbara K. Mistick, D.M


RELATED: A College for All Scholarships Spell Success For the Love of Wilson

A College for All

The needs of the modern student have never moved quicker, and Wilson is ready to adapt.

Student recruitment and retention requires investment.

Wilson College is not just a collection of pretty buildings and facilities in Chambersburg, Pa. She is a living entity that evolves with the times while maintaining her original mission, principles, and morals. She is the ideal of an egalitarian liberal arts education embodied through her people — the students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

While the entire community represents the College, the students are the heart of Wilson. It is their energy and enthusiasm that propel the institution forward and keep the College alive. Recruiting and retaining students is therefore central to the health and longevity of Wilson and the perpetuation of her mission to provide a unique, broad, rigorous, and personal education.

The growth initiatives pillar of the We Rise campaign aims to provide the financial resources needed to recruit and retain a healthy student body. Meeting students’ needs is complex. It includes everything from the degrees relevant to today’s workplace, to the athletic teams and recreational opportunities students desire, to the learning modalities and technologies that prepare students for the future

Higher education was evolving long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, the pandemic sped up many of the changes that were already in the pipeline. Post pandemic, students have different expectations of what an education will give them and how lessons are delivered. While many still seek the traditional four-year on-campus experience, others, especially adult learners, no longer want or can avail themselves of a in-person education. And both residential and non-residential students are interested in taking courses taught asynchronously to allow them to fit classes and assignments into their schedules.

Non-Residential Degree Options Since 1982

Unlike many similar institutions, we have been accommodating non-residential students and working adults for decades. Wilson’s Adult Degree Program (ADP) was founded “to help lifelong learners, both male and female, get a college degree,” said Beverly Evans, former adult degree admissions recruiter, currently administrative coordinator for the Nursing and Health Sciences program. “The program has been in place since 1982 and has always been coed.”

Originally called the College for Continuing Education, adult education was part of Wilson’s “renaissance” in the 1980s and was seen as an appropriate extension of Wilson’s core mission. Adult learners have sought degrees for many reasons—to advance a career, begin a career, enhance their knowledge or expand their worldview, acquire new skills or complete a personal goal.

Wilson College Online

If the ADP program has been a key element in our mission to provide a Wilson education to as many students as possible, the launch of Wilson College Online for the spring of 2023 is a continuation and expansion of that program. Now we have expanded our footprint into the online higher education space, we can offer a Wilson education to anyone in the country.

“Launching Wilson College Online is a momentous occasion in the 153-year history of the college,” said College President Wes Fugate. “Wilson has always been proud to provide access to post-secondary education, and these new online offerings will help ensure that an affordable, transformative education is available to those, such as adult learners, who need the convenience of learning online.” Wilson College Online will be a life and career changer for students whose busy work and family schedules make attending a traditional in-person college difficult.

New Degrees and Curricula

Once upon a time, people undertook professional training to learn specialized skills and become tradespeople. When technology made those skills redundant, those trained in them didn’t have the skill sets to find new positions without extensive retraining. The beauty of a liberal arts education is that it is time and technology resistant because it teaches you how to learn — an invaluable skill in a world where businesses are crying out for employees who can continue to learn and adapt to rapid changes on the job.

That doesn’t mean we can sit back and thank our lucky stars that we have provided our students with the power skills — communication, creativity, flexibility, teamwork, and research – that make our graduates agile employees. We must continue the work of bringing new degrees and curricula to the Wilson learning experience.

Students and their parents expect colleges to offer specific degree programs that lead directly to successful professions in addition to the power skills a broad education provides. We have listened to what they want and have expanded our successful and in-demand business, healthcare, and veterinary nursing offerings. And we have identified several degrees in the healthcare field that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected employment growth of 20% through 2026. The College is currently pursuing approval to develop and launch a doctorate degree in occupational therapy as well as physical therapy, and a master’s degree in speech language pathology. Our  goal is to offer these new degree programs by 2028. By looking to the future and the needs of employers, we will ensure that a Wilson degree remains relevant and desired in a rapidly changing world.

Happy Students = a Happy College

While we expand into the digital realm and look to future career opportunities, it is just as important to serve and grow the traditional undergraduate population. In addition to new academic offerings that excite and inspire today’s students, we have expanded their recreational and sports offerings. We now have an esports team (competitive video gaming) that competes with colleges and universities across the country and is very popular with students. Kicking off in the fall of 2023, we will have a show choir that will perform regionally as well as for the Wilson community. Similarly, our students have more opportunities to pursue their creative interests with expanded opportunities in the visual arts, dance, music, and creative writing.

The redesigned student areas of Lenfest Commons are comfortable spaces for students to hang out and relax. The new Café @ Sarah’s Coffeehouse is a more casual alternative to the dining hall. And we have responded to the increased interest in our equestrian programs. In every way we can, we are improving the learning environment for our students.

 “I like giving to Wilson because I know that my money is definitely going to go towards a program or something that needs to be done.”

Margaret Hamilton Duprey, a current Trustee of the College, has given a great deal of her “time and treasure” to Wilson. She joined the Board at the suggestion of vice-chair James A. Orsini, VDM, who thought her love of all things equestrian would be a good fit for the College. He has been proven right, and Duprey has contributed to improving our equestrian offerings and facilities. However, her generosity is not limited to things equestrian.

Duprey, who graduated from a small liberal arts college herself, said, “I like small colleges because they look at the student as a person, not as a number. So that if you have issues, either learning or emotional, they can help you with whatever is going on.” She is a co-chair of the We Rise campaign and has singled out the Growth Initiatives pillar as something close to her heart because it affects students directly.

“I think it’s important giving to the students because a lot are first-generation college students,” she said. “The cost of higher education is so expensive these days … Giving has a very direct impact.”

Duprey feels donors can get more for their buck by giving to Wilson rather than larger institutions. “I like giving to Wilson because I know that my money is definitely going to go towards a program or something that needs to be done,” she said.

Online and Totally Wilson

We sat down with the College’s registrar Jean Hoover and the newly hired online registration specialist Tara Redding to find out more about Wilson College Online. There are some basic differences between the online courses and the traditional in-person courses, but both have been developed by Wilson faculty to ensure academic rigor and consistency across degrees.

Hoover explained that it would be easy for an online institution to let students sign up for as many classes as they liked.

But that is not the Wilson way. “Ultimately, they’re the decision maker. But we try to support them to be successful here,” she said. This is why every student that registers is walked through every step and option during their initial one-on-one registration/advising session. Typically, their contact person is Redding, and the first conversation with a potential student, “because we want to get to know the student,” can take up to 45 minutes.

“I help them with everything from orientation to registration to the curriculum,” Redding said. Not only does she find out what programs they want to enter and the details of any credits they may be able to transfer from other institutions, but she tries to get to know them as individuals with lives and commitments that will affect their journey at Wilson. For example, knowing how many hours someone works in a week or what sorts of family obligations they may have helps Redding come up with a course schedule and degree timeline that works with their lifestyles.

“I tell the students, I want everyone that starts at Wilson to complete the program,” Hoover said. That means we are not afraid to advise students to wait or take fewer courses than they want. “We assess every student individually and tailor their plans accordingly.” That could mean advising someone whose work or housing situation is not stable to wait until their situation is resolved before starting at Wilson. Hoover added that the students have commented that our onboarding is outstanding, and they appreciate the time and care we give them.

Tara Redding is our online registration specialist. Originally from Cham-bersburg, Pa., Redding’s first memories of Wilson College were of doing gymnastics in what is now the gym and workout room. “The large trampoline in the back room was my favorite!” she recalled.

“We want people to stay and graduate,” Redding said. That means that she will adapt a student’s plan depending on how each term goes. One person may struggle, and it would be best for them to take fewer classes at a time, while another may find they have the capacity to take on more classes. The key is to work with each student individually.

“It’s all about relationships. We want to build the same sorts of relationships we have with [traditional] in-person students,” Hoover said. Both believe it is this “high touch” and caring commitment to students that differentiates Wilson College Online from other online colleges and will ensure students’ success going forward.

Kaesey Greene ’23
Nursing major, resident assistant, softball player, class officer
Donor-Funded Scholarship:
Margaret & Martha Jamison Scholarship

Kaesey Greene grew up in Taneytown, Md., loving softball and dreaming of becoming a nurse. Greene is a planner and knew she could do both if she found the right college. She researched many nursing programs before choosing Wilson. It was our combination of being a small school where the professors know the students by name, the reputation of the nursing program, and the flexibility of a program that would work with her schedule to allow her to play softball that sold her on the College.

While at Wilson, Greene has played sports, been a peer mentor, and a class officer, to name but a few of her activities. One of her favorite roles was as an RA at Rosenkrans Hall, where a lot of baseball and softball players lived. One day after the baseball team lost a game, the players were very down. So Greene said, “Come to my room, and we can talk this over.” The next minute, a few of the boys came to her room with air mattresses. “This isn’t a sleepover,” she told them. Undaunted, they set up their mattresses on her floor. When a couple more arrived, joined by some of the softball team, Greene threw her hands in the air and gave up. They watched movies, talked about sports and school, and by the next morning, had recovered from the loss and were ready to go again. Greene believes it is memories like these that last a lifetime.

Greene’s scholarship went toward tuition and helped cover extra classes she took over the summer. She also received an Eliza King scholarship through her church and Robert Moton Scholarship for students of color. Between all the funding, she has only had to take out small student loans and has graduated relatively debt free.

“I always wanted to work with kids when I was growing up. So I tried pediatrics, but found I wanted something more intense and hands-on,” Greene said. She explained that she is a bit of an adrenaline junky, and one of the things she enjoyed most about sports was the intensity of competition. When she discovered trauma medicine, working in an every-second-counts environment with patients with acute injuries, she knew she had found her calling. “I just accepted a job at York Hospital in their trauma unit,” she said. One day, she hopes to be part of a medical emergency helicopter crew flying out to take car crash and other trauma victims to the hospital.

Greene’s ambition doesn’t end with flying to the rescue. In a few years, she intends to return to Wilson to do a master’s in nursing and eventually become a nurse practitioner. With her track record of success, no one would bet against her achieving everything she has set out to achieve.

RELATED: We Rise. United for Wilson’s Future. Scholarships Spell Success For the Love of Wilson

Scholarships Spell Success

Students share insights into how scholarships and financial aid have made their goals attainable.

Wilson’s 153rd Annual Commencement took place over the pleasantly mild weekend of May 13 and 14. Under the dappled sunlight on Main Green, families and friends watched their loved ones cross the stage and receive their diplomas from President Wes Fugate. Seeing the proud graduates and their even prouder parents, families, and friends celebrating their success and looking to a future of possibilities, you are struck by how transformative Wilson College has been in the lives of so many.

This year we honored 171 undergraduate students, 141 graduate students, and 110 students who completed their Pennsylvania teacher certification. The number of smiling and optimistic graduates who crossed that stage this year is thanks to the generous financial aid Wilson College awards to over 98% of her students.

Fugate reminded the audience of what a particularly inspiring group the class of 2023 was. They personified “perseverance, persistence, resiliency, and personal growth,” given the extraordinary challenges they faced during the pandemic and all the disruptions that wrought. “But you made it,” he reminded them, “I am so proud of you.”

Fugate also celebrated the contributions of the “village” – the families, friends, faculty, and staff — that had supported the students on their journey. To loud cheers, he singled out the contributions of all the mothers in the audience—a popular callout given it was Mother’s Day.

Class President

Class of 2023 President Anaida Fahradyan addressed the audience by quoting from the poet Vahan Tekeyan, from her home country of Armenia. “Rise up and raise others up with you,” the poet advised. To Fahradyan, this ideal of raising others exemplified the Wilson College experience. “Wilson’s Bogigian Scholarship, funded by generous donors, paid for my education here,” she said. “Others who were able to rise up and raise others – in this case, me – with them.”

She spoke of how thankful the class was for all the incredible opportunities and funding for tuition, internships, trips, and activities paid for by donors. “Breathe it in. Be grateful, and don’t forget to express your gratitude to them. They allowed us to rise up, and now it’s our turn to raise others up.” Appropriately, the Class of 2023 presented the College with a gift that will help raise up future students. “Through class fundraising efforts, I am pleased to announce that we will be joining those who raised us – the Wilson College Parents Council – and contrib-uting towards their efforts to refresh the Fitness Center. It’s our way of rising up to raise future Phoenix!”

Commencement Speaker

Fugate introduced commencement speaker the Honorable Elaine L. Chao, the longest-serving US Cabinet member since WWII, having served under two Presidents. She was conferred with the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Chao told the graduating class about her family, the sacrifices her parents made to come to Amer- ica when she was eight, and how she overcame difficulties and challenges “Whenever I was confronted with challenges in my career, I thought of my parents—what they went through and sacrificed. That gave me comfort and courage.” She explained that knowing “your story” and “knowing yourself” are key to figuring out your path in life. “Each of you has the potential to make a positive impact on the world. By knowing yourself, you can unlock that potential and achieve great things. Find your Bold!”

After the presentation of diplomas to the Class of 2023, Lynne DiStasio ’74, president of the AAWC, congratulated the class and invited them to join the AAWC.

The Graduate commencement ceremony in the afternoon was addressed by Adam Kritzer ’23, BSN, RN, who was graduating with a master’s in nursing: education. Kritzer had intended to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. However, after being injured in a motorcycle accident, he was inspired by the care he received from a male nurse in the emergency room to become a nurse. He encouraged his fellow graduates to boldly pursue their dreams.

Student Profiles

The stories of the Class of 2023 and how they succeeded at Wilson are many, and each one is unique to the individuals and their families. Here and in two other stories later in this issue, we will profile some of this year’s graduates to give you a flavor of this class and what Wilson means to them. Each of the students featured received scholarships and financial aid, without which they could not have gone to college. With each profile, we only included the named scholarships as financial aid packages are complex, and funding can come from many sources, including federal and state loans. The three students featured here also received either President’s or Dean’s Merit Scholarships, which go toward tuition costs. The College is committed to keeping a Wilson education affordable so students like these can receive the sort of individualized and transformative education that has been the hallmark of this institution for over a century and a half.

Aura Langley ’23
Single Parent Scholar, Phoenix Leader, nursing major

Donor-Funded Scholarships:
Thomas & Kathleen Kimes ’52 Scholarship, Sylvia S. Davison & Mary M. Dee Scholarship, Patricia J. Reber ’60 scholarship, Class of 1968 Scholarship, Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Scholarship, Carol Tschop ’72 Nursing Scholarship, Helen Bell Cressey Ashley ’54 Scholarship

Aura Langley was raising her son James without a partner while attending community college. How- ever, she was ambitious and looking to transfer to a nursing degree program that she could afford. When she learned of the Single Parent Scholar (SPS) program at Wilson and the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree while living on campus with her son, she jumped at the chance to come here.

Her love of nursing was inspired by the midwives she met during the birth of James, and her long- term goal is to become a midwife. “The whole experience of bringing life into the world is wonderful, and I want to help other people have a good experience giving birth,” she said.

“There’s a community of people who are in the same situation that you’re in,” she enthused about Wilson’s SPS program. “We’re in the same boat, and we want to be successful. So we help each other be successful. It really is just a huge family, and it’s wonderful.”

Langley’s economic situation meant that she would have had to work, raise her son, and go to school at the same time. “The nursing program is phenomenal,” she said, “but there’s no way I would have been able to do this without the donor’s support.” She wanted them to know how grateful she is and that their support “lifted” her and her family up. “I’m going to do something great with my degree.”

Geneva Dardick Robinette ’23
Veterinary nursing major

Donor-Funded Scholarship:
Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Scholarship

Geneva Robinette grew up outside of Harrisburg, Pa., and was looking for an excellent four-year veterinarian nursing program. The only other pro- gram she could find with an equivalent reputation to Wilson’s was in upstate New York. However, once she visited our campus and met the faculty and staff here, she knew she’d found her home and didn’t even apply to the other school. “I wanted an individual experience, and I wanted to be able to connect with people,” she said. “I knew I’d make better connections and stronger connec- tions at a school where I wasn’t just a number.”

And Wilson has lived up to her high expectations. In one of the most competitive and difficult graduate fields to break into, Robinette has been accepted into two of the four veterinary schools she applied to and has chosen to go to the Univer- sity of Florida. She chose U.F. because she wants to work with exotic animals, and the school has an affiliation with the Tampa Zoo, meaning students can do rotations working with zoo animals.

Robinette believes her liberal arts education helped with her applications to veterinarian schools. It made her a better writer and a more rounded person than someone who went to a science or tech college, and that set her apart. Besides, she enjoyed the liberal arts and became a bit of a history buff, studying social structures in America before the Civil War was of particular interest.

Because her family had some medical issues, Robinette was acutely conscious of the cost of education. Without the aid and scholarships she received, she may not have been able to go to college. “I definitely am grateful to the alumni donors,” she said. “I think it’s important to give for students who do struggle financially. Anything helps. Everything helps. And I think it’s a nice way to keep a connection with the school. It’s kind of like you pay for the person behind you in line, and then they pay for the person behind them.”

During the ceremony, the College honored two retiring Trustees, Robin Bernstein, Esq. and Dr. Barbara Tenney ’67, with their election to Trustees Emeriti for their combined 39 years of service to the College.

RELATED: We Rise. United for Wilson’s Future. A College for All For the Love of Wilson

For the Love of Wilson

Wilson’s calendar does not begin on January 1 and end on December 31. Nor does it simply follow the academic calendar beginning with the first day of classes and ending with graduation ceremonies. For the Wilson community, the calendar starts with student move-in day and all the excitement and bustle that marks the reopening of the college. And it ends with Reunion and the return of our alumni, who come together to renew their friendships, share memories, and celebrate the College — a fitting send-off for the old year.

This year was no exception. The Class of ’73 and the Class of ’98 showed up in numbers to celebrate their 50th and 25th reunions, respectively. And we had alumni representing classes from 1952 all the way up to 2023. The alumna who traveled the furthest came from Ecuador!

Two Goods Do Make a Right

In his welcome speech, Wilson President Wes Fugate summarized the state of the college, joking that he might have titled his talk “the good, the bad, the ugly, and the good.” The first “good” included Wilson’s remarkable enrollment increases before the pandemic, which bucked the negative growth trend in many similar institutions. The “bad” referenced the pandemic’s negative financial and enrollment effects. And the “ugly” described the long-term repercussions of the lower enrollment combined with a looming “demographic cliff” (beginning in 2026, there will be 15% fewer students graduating from high schools due to the decreased birthrate during the great recession of 2008).

The second “good” is how the College has responded to “the bad and the ugly.” Wilson was proactive and addressed the challenges through Future Wilson: The Phoenix Rises – a five-year strategic plan that lays out a path to financial and academic security. Fugate touted the steps we have already taken towards fulfilling the plan — more graduate courses, new undergraduate programs, Wilson College Online, the success of our athletics teams, and the reimagined creative arts options, to list but a few of the recent gains.

He concluded his speech with the official launch of the We Rise campaign — a $16 million fundraising effort to help implement the strategic plan described in detail throughout this issue of the magazine. And although this was the official launch event, he announced that we had already raised $12 million in cash and pledges! Given the generosity of alumnae, alumni, and friends of the College, he had no doubt that we would meet the target and put Wilson on sound footing once again.

Fund the Fund

The cost of a higher education degree today is high and out of the reach of many. This is why Wilson has kept its tuition and board rates low and gives generous financial aid packages to deserving students. Robin Bernstein, Esq., vice- chair of the We Rise campaign, understands why a donor would want to fund scholarships and other forms of direct aid to students. But years on the Board of Trustees have taught her that the Wilson Fund and additional unrestricted funds are critical too.

Class of 1973 Reception in the John Stewart Memorial Library

“The Wilson Fund is important to me because it helps cover the operating expenses that get us through year to year. Every year has its own issues, especially on an old campus, and some- thing unexpected always comes up,” she said. “If you leave money in a restricted fund, which is fine, what was seen as the most important thing in 1909 when you died might have no relevance in 1929 or 2029! Unrestricted dollars, however, provide for things that you may not have even thought of existing.”

“Everything that goes to the annual fund is unrestricted,” she explained. “It’s not enough to carry the College, but it creates a safety buffer against the unexpected costs.”

Odds and Evens

The rivalry between the Odds and Evens is alive and well if the back-and-forth chanting at the Reunion lunch is anything to go by. This good-natured teasing is one of Wilson’s oldest traditions. But don’t let the rivalry fool you. When it comes to the College’s welfare, the Odds and Evens put aside their differences and unite to work together. That’s precisely how Cynthia Dimmick Grove ’63 and Julia Solleveld Osborne ’64, both We Rise Odds and Evens subcommittee members, approach raising unrestricted funds.

Cynthia Dimmick Grove ’63

“My class of 1964 will be looking at their 60th reunion next year,” Osborne said. “And I have been a fundraising cheerleader for 60 years!” She hopes to present the College with a bumper gift next year at Reunion. “I’ve been telling my classmates for years that they need to reflect on what Wilson did for them. And by helping Wilson now, they are passing that gift on. on.” The Class of 1964 has decided to create a “Class of ’64” scholarship. However, while this will be a named gift to honor the class and will be presented at Reunion next year, it will be given as part of the We Rise campaign. This means the College can award the funds to whoever needs them most on behalf of the class. In that sense, it is not like an endowment that is limited to spending funds in very specific ways.

Julia Solleveld Osborne ’64

Grove agrees that the College needs unrestricted funds. She reminds her classmates, “It’s not money wasted because there is the strategic plan, and it’s already working.” Grove’s motivation is simple: “Wilson College really helped to create the person that I think I am today,” she said. “It’s important to stay connected and be supportive of the place where you spent four important years of your life.”

Both women have been encouraged by the College’s administration under Fugate. In particular, they are impressed by how proactive the strategic plan is. “We’ve done an incredible job of keeping pace and even being head of the storm,” Grove said of the College’s preparations for the challenges ahead. “We have an ambitious strategic plan to help us to remain the cutting-edge institution that began 154 years ago thanks to the generosity of Sarah Wilson,” Fugate said at Reunion. “It remains the highest honor of my life to serve this remarkable College. I am humbled to walk alongside each of you as her president. Thank you for being here this weekend. Thank you for being loyal to your alma mater. And thank you for what you will do for her in these coming years.”

Embracing a Challenge

Robin Bernstein joined the Board of Trustees in 1996. She had known of Wilson since childhood (through a friend who lived in Chambersburg) and considered it “the little engine that could” because of how the school had scrapped her way back into existence and relevance after the near closing in 1979. She liked Wilson’s fighting spirit, knew many alumnae, and, she admitted, was a little jealous of the women who had come here.

At her first Trustee meeting, she was shocked to hear the head of physical property explain how he had saved money by soldering the front of one truck onto the rear of another to create a usable vehicle. “Then I remember going into the ladies’ room, and the plaster was falling off the ceiling,” she said. “I thought, what have I gotten myself into?”

Luckily, Bernstein likes a challenge. After the initial shock of the College’s finances, she rolled up her sleeves and joined the fight to put the College on a firmer financial footing. She served two terms on the board, including a three-year stint as chair, and retired on June 30, having served for a grand total of 18 years.

When she became chair, some alumnae questioned why a non-alumna would care so much about the College. Bernstein considered this a valid question and had to ask herself why she felt such a strong connection to Wilson and didn’t feel the same about her own alma mater.

Then she had an epiphany. “I realized that I love this place because it is very much like my prep school in Philadelphia, which was Quaker. There like here, the faculty mentored you, and you could go into the classroom after school and talk about anything with them.” Not only did this realization clarify why she felt so strongly toward the College, but it motivated her to put even more of her time and “treasure” into keeping Wilson a viable and relevant school. “There are very few institutions left where the students are supported the way they are here.”

2023 Reunion Awards

Attendance Awards

Silver Cup
Class with the greatest percentage of class members registered.
Class of 1973
25% in attendance

Reunion Bowl
Class with the largest number of class members registered.
Class of 1973
29 in attendance

Fundraising Awards

President’s Plaque
Class with the highest 5-year participation of giving to Wilson Fund.
Class of 1963
53% of participation

Silver Tray
Class with the highest 5-year total giving to the College.
Class of 1963

Class Crystal
Class with the highest Wilson Fund giving for the current fiscal year.
Class of 1963


50th Class Gift

The Class of 1973 celebrated their 50th reunion with a gift toward scholarships for female students as part of the We Rise Campaign.
Class of 1973


RELATED: We Rise. United for Wilson’s Future. A College for All Scholarships Spell Success

The Backbone of the College

At the front of the class or behind the scenes, faculty and staff make Wilson a supportive and transformative experience for students.

How many of you remember that inspiring professor, teacher, or coach who changed the course of your life? Perhaps, like Monique Paré Spiers ’11, your biology professor took you aside at the end of a semester and told you that you had a gift for science. That one interaction gave her the confidence to major in biology, pursue a doctorate in bio-chem, and today run a chemical analytics lab for a large corporation. Or, like the current Chair of the Board of Trust- ees of Wilson College Jen Nickle Banzhof ’94, whose liberal arts education introduced her to a subject she did not know she loved. To her surprise, Banzhof walked into a math class and, in her words, “I hit statistics, and they clicked. I completely get stats.”

Inspirational Instructor

The story of a transformative interaction with a professor is as old as Wilson herself. For Lisbeth “Beth” Luka ’69, the classes she took with sociology professor Alice Brumbaugh, who taught from 1965 to 1988, inspired her to make her latest gift to the College in honor of current faculty and staff. “Alice was an excellent teacher. She was very small in stature and had a very quiet voice. But boy, did she have a powerful impact on all of us in her class,” she recalled.

“She opened our eyes to all kinds of conditions in the world and things that we could or should be doing. And I enjoyed her as a professor, then as a mentor, and then as a friend. We stayed in touch even after I graduated. I had many excel- lent professors at Wilson, but she just stood out for me.” As co-chair of the We Rise campaign, Luka considered which of the pillars she most wanted to support and hit on supporting faculty and staff.

“The faculty and staff are the backbone of the College,” Luka said. “Without them, students would not come. The interactions with them, the one-on-ones, and the personal attention from the professors at Wilson are among the biggest draws for students.” Because of very tight budgets over the last few years, the College has not been able to make salary increases or cost of living adjustments for her employees. Unfortunately, this has made retaining faculty and staff difficult, and, especially in a very tight employment market, recruiting new employees even more challenging.

“As a Trustee,” Luka said, “it’s been so painful for us as we lose faculty and staff. We cannot compensate them the way we would like to. And it’s not because we don’t want to; it’s just you can’t get blood out of a turnip.”

Staff to the Rescue

Just as Wilson faculty are willing to go the extra mile for their students, the staff play a crucial part in the maintenance and success of the College. Of course, many staff interact with students daily. From the dining hall staff and housekeepers in residence halls to the librarians to members of the Academic Success Center and the counselors in student services, there is an army of professionals directly supporting the students.

And often working behind the scenes and out of public view, there are the administrative, facility, grounds, and technical staff who keep the College going. The staff response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the sudden closure of the campus is emblematic of the dedication and strength of the Wilson staff.

When then Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania announced the stay-at-home order in early 2020 in response to the pandemic, in a matter of two weeks, the College transformed into a 100 percent remote institution of learning. Through video conferencing, digital chatrooms and boards, instant messaging, emailing, texts, and even the old-fashioned phone call, the instructors and support staff maintained the close contact and personalized learning Wilson is famous for and has provided continuously for more than 150 years. The faculty and students deserve a lot of credit for making this work, but so too do the IT, library, and technical staff who worked long hours to create a digital campus, train faculty and students, and maintain the networks and connections throughout the shutdown.

In addition, staff delivered carry-out meals to students isolating on campus, drove interna- tional students to airports so they could get home before flights were canceled, overnight- ed laptops and routers to students and faculty who didn’t have the necessary equipment of their own, and met daily to analyze the end- lessly shifting realities and make the difficult decisions that got us through this crisis.

The faculty and staff, as Luka noted, are just as important to the success of the college as the students and alumni.


This summer, Daniela DiGregorio, an assistant professor of education, took a group of students on a study-abroad trip to the Czech Republic, her homeland, and Austria. Most of the students received some form of financial aid to help them pay for the learning experience and were afforded the opporuntity with the generous support of donors.

DiGregorio was born in the Czech Republic, although it was still a part of Czechoslovakia at the time, and attended the University of South Bohemia (USB), Ceske Budejovice, where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. While in college, she also taught English as a foreign language at a private high school and attended two study-abroad trips with her stu- dents. She saw firsthand how impactful these immersive trips could be for students as they learned about different cultures and presented dramatic improvement in their language skills. “This experience inspired me to organize a study abroad program for students at Wilson College,” DiGregorio said.

DiGregorio used her contacts from her alma mater to set up a partnership between USB and Wilson, allowing Phoenix students to attend classes there. It is her hope that this initial trip will lead to future academic and cultural exchanges. It’s a great example of a faculty member who, on her own initiative, goes above and beyond to enrich the student experience. And, an example of how Wilson is able to facilitate such experiences without the red tape that is typical of bigger and less flexible institutions.

Castles, Classes, and Culture

Odessa Kalathas ’23 is one of the Wilson students who went with DiGregorio on the study-abroad trip. Their first stop was Prague, the Czech capital and the biggest city Kalathas had ever visited. “It felt like it was never-ending,” she said of its size. They got to tour the historic center, visit- ing the Charles Bridge and the Astronomical Clock at the Old Town Square, as well as museums, including the Kafka Museum and the Communist Museum, and other sites of cultural importance. A highlight of Prague was taking a glimpse into the Czech education system and being able to interact with elementary students who were learning English.

Odessa Kalathas ’23

Their next stop was Cesky Krumlov, South Bohemia, a town with a stunning blend of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. Here they participated in the Five Petaled Rose Festival, a celebration of the town’s 770th anniversary. “It was amazing, so colorful and unique,” Kala- thas said. “Imagine having something that old in America!”

Following the celebrations, they visited Vienna, Austria, and toured the Schonbrunn Palace, once the primary residence for the Habsburg rulers (rulers of the Holy Roman Empire). Returning to the Czech Republic, they met their final destination, Ceske Budejovice, home of the University of South Bohemia where they met with professors and observed classes. Kalathas noted, “It was so different to the classroom experience that we have in the U.S.” She thought Czech classes were more informal than classes here but remained impressed with the instruction.

DiGregorio was delighted with the insights gained from the journey. The students had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culinary delights and rich cultures of two countries, and she believes that students expanded their global perspective and appreciation. As an unexpected bonus, their connecting flight in Dublin, Ireland, encountered a delay, allowing them to venture out for a delightful meal and explore the vibrant city before their return journey.




RELATED: We Rise. United for Wilson’s Future. A College for All Scholarships Spell Success

Letter from the President

Have you ever seen a rainbow appear after a summer storm and marveled at how such an awesome sight came out of the dark and dreary? That almost magical transformation is my heartfelt hope for Wilson’s post-pandemic future. So many of you got to enjoy Wilson prior to those dark years. I, unfortunately, got to experience only 77 days of Wilson before that significant trajectory-altering event. The days were long. The challenges were great. It was indeed dark and dreary.

And yet, “small, but mighty,” Wilson persevered. We developed a comprehensive strategic plan to guide us towards a Wilson that meets the modern needs of students and thrives into the future despite the anticipated rapid decline in the number of students seeking higher education. As we have implemented our plan, I am delighted to see a rainbow appear in the distance. Since our strategic planning process began, we have focused on growth, adding eight new majors and one new graduate program. We have improved retention through targeted initiatives, including re-envisioning how we advise students. We have enhanced co-curricular experiences by moving our hunt seat equestrian team to varsity status, adding a varsity western team, beginning
competitive eSports, and, this fall, we will introduce a show choir. In January of this year, our first students enrolled in the newly launched Wilson College Online programs aimed at providing an accessible Wilson education to primarily adult students. As a result of these initiatives, enrollment appears to have stabilized and is heading back up.

And we are not done yet; our next major step is to launch hybrid, accelerated programs in allied, graduate healthcare. We have begun the necessary accreditation processes for doctorates of occupational therapy and physical therapy and a master’s of speech language pathology.

January of 2028, we hope to have added these new in-demand programs to our degree offerings. Additionally, our strategic plan emphasizes keeping a Wilson education affordable. Thanks to the generosity of alumnae, alumni, and friends of the College and the scholarships and assistance they have funded, the average cost for a student to attend Wilson after all financial aid is the same as a student attending a nearby public university. In other words, at Wilson, you get the benefits of a private education at a public price. Our plan also seeks to better support the women and men who serve the College by giving them the tools and resources necessary to provide the transformative education for which Wilson is known.

And yet, we need your help to make our strategic plan successful. At Reunion, I formally announced the We Rise: United for Wilson’s Future campaign. With an overall goal of raising $16 million by June 30, 2025, this campaign seeks to provide the funding to enact our strategic priorities while combatting the challenges facing all of higher education. I am pleased to say, to date, we have already raised $12.1 million. This edition of the magazine illuminates the campaign’s priorities and details why we need you to support us. The pandemic has robbed us of so much, but we must not let it rob Wilson of her success and future. This may very well be the most difficult decade in the history of higher education, and Wilson is not immune to these challenges, but we have an aggressive plan to emerge on the other side as an even stronger institution.

I am asking you to consider making the most transformative gift you will ever make to Wilson College during the next two years. I would not ask you to do something I am not willing to do myself. Cody and I helped kick off the campaign with the largest philanthropic commitment we have ever made to any organization. We believe that much in Wilson. Will you unite with me as we seek to ensure that Wilson rises to the challenges before us? With your support, the turbulent storm of the past few years will fade into memory as the rainbow brightens Wilson’s horizons.

Wesley R. Fugate, Ph.D.

RELATED: We Rise. United for Wilson’s Future. A College for All Scholarships Spell Success