Jim W. Wilson ’69
Jim Wilson ’69 “has done so much for Southwestern, it is hard to know where to begin,” says Ellen Davis, former director of public relations at Southwestern. One might start with 1985, when Jim and his wife, Carol, served as a host family for Lena Hoegfeldt, a Southwestern student from Stockholm, Sweden. Over the decades, the Wilsons kept in touch with Hoegfeldt, their families visiting one another across the Atlantic. Nearly 30 years later, the Wilsons provided a home away from home for Elise von Peltzer ’17—the oldest of Hoegfeldt’s four children.
Hoegfeldt and von Peltzer have been only two Southwestern students Wilson has mentored over the past several decades. And his commitment to supporting members of the Southwestern community extends to helping those in need. Fellow College Town Committee member Ron Swain recollects, “Jim came to the aid of a University student who was essentially homeless.” He helped the student get a laptop for school, arranged food for the student during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and coordinated summer housing so that the student could work in Georgetown to earn money for the upcoming academic year. “Jim’s concern and compassion [make him] a friend to all,” says Swain.
Wilson’s caring nature is matched only by his prodigious energy. According to Southwestern Associate Athletic Director Glenn Schwab, Wilson is the “‘Energizer Bunny of Service’” and “one of the most caring and giving individuals on the planet. If there is an event happening involving Southwestern and Georgetown, Jim is right in the middle of it. He constantly reminds people of this great institution and promotes our mission and causes to everyone. He is one proud alumnus!” Indeed, as a former member of Georgetown’s Main Street Board, Wilson has been Southwestern’s biggest cheerleader, constantly making the rounds of the Georgetown Square to promote the University. He initiated the printing and placement of the SU 1840 pennants that the city places around the square for school events. He is a member of the Southwestern Board of Visitors, an officer for the Greater Georgetown Chapter of the Southwestern Alumni Association, and the chair of the College-Town Committee. In 2016, he received the Martha Diaz Hurtado College-Town Award, which recognized his dedicated efforts to enhancing the college-town environment for the SU community.
Wilson’s dedication to his alma mater is phenomenal. He has indefatigably promoted the Pirate Card, Pirate Bike, and Southwestern Community Benefactor Program across the city. He presented to the Georgetown City Council a request to add a “Home of Southwestern” sign to the city’s entrances and Southwestern’s name to the water tower. And for the past five years, he has been instrumental in drumming up support for Southwestern’s resurrected football program. “Jim is always recruiting individuals to purchase season tickets, attend the weekly coach’s show, join our community partnership program, and just promote our game days,” says Schwab.
If you’re lucky, you’ve seen Wilson’s peerless makeup and costume when he serves as a Pirate at University events. Friend David Kellerman observes, “Jim loves Georgetown and especially Southwestern University immensely. He is willing to put himself out there as a fantastic pirate. In doing so, he spreads the spirit of SU to everyone he encounters.” Kellerman also sees Wilson as a role model given his award-winning volunteer work for such organizations as the Sertoma Club (where he can boast perfect attendance for 38 straight years) and the Chamber of Commerce: “He constantly shows me what a servant leader is, and by his example, I want to do better. Jim is always willing to help better the community and the people he comes in contact with.”
Those who know and love Wilson—including longtime friends Kellerman and Norm Peters, who, as self-professed “old-timers,” can’t remember when they first met—describe him as a “sincere, open-minded, hard-working gentleman” who is “classy,” “compassionate,” “wis[e] in marrying Carol,” and, of course, “very handsome.” Even mere acquaintances recognize Wilson’s charm, kindness, and good sense of humor. Schwab counts Wilson as a supportive friend: “Jim always sees the brighter side of any situation and helps others come to that realization themselves as well.” Peters adds, “His quiet and not-so-quiet leadership in so many areas is obvious. … Georgetown is even more attractive as a unique community thanks to the leadership of people like Jim Wilson.”
“To me, no one better exemplifies Southwestern’s core value of encouraging activism in the pursuit of justice and the common good than Jim W. Wilson,” says Davis. For his buoyant spirit and inspiring commitment to the University, the Southwestern University Alumni Association honors Jim Wilson with the award for Distinguished Southwestern Service.