Heritage Center bids Wilson farewell

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Friday night, Marengo County bid farewell to one of its most treasured citizens as they honored Dr. David Wilson at the Rural Heritage Center in Thomaston.

Davis, a native of McKinley, recently accepted the position of Chancellor for the University of Wisconsin Colleges and the University of Wisconsin Extension.

Wilson currently completed his tenure as Vice President of Outreach for Auburn University in which he worked closely with Rural Studios projects such as the Heritage Center.

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The crowd that assembled, Wilson said, was a memory he would carry with him forever.

“I really am honored that everyone took time out of their schedule to come here and celebrate,” Wilson said. “What is happening tonight will be etched in my memory for decades to come.”

When thanking everyone, Wilson used an old phrase from his father to let them know how important their help had been on his journey.

“My father used to say to me, boy, if you are ever walking through this field and you see a turtle on a stump there is one thing you can come away knowing,” Wilson said. “That is that he didn’t get there by himself. Whatever I have done in leaving our little red dirt road in McKinley, is because of the help of so many incredible people along the way.”

The new opportunity facing Wilson came as no surprise to U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, a personal friend. Wilson, Davis said, had something few people could offer.

“What I have learned every time I have been in his presence is that he is an extraordinary human being,” Davis said. “Yes, he is a very smart man. But, God made lots of those. Yes, he is an accomplished man and a learned man. But, God made lots of those. Yes, he is a successful man with a wonderful family. But, God made lots of those. What is unique about him, is that he has taken something from every space in his life and put it all together to make one incredible foundation and God didn’t made a lot of people that know how to do that.”

The legacy Wilson leaves behind, Davis said, can serve as a positive example to everyone.”

“Wherever he goes he is going to carry Marengo County with him,” Davis said. “Wherever he goes, he is going to carry the Black Belt with him. If we just find a way to watch the power of this man’s example, we will see the way to a state that we have never seen.”

While at Auburn, Wilson was responsible for several programs to improve his home state. When he saw the critical needs of the Black Belt, he created “Do Something Grants” to encourage faculty to develop program responses centered in Black Belt Counties.

Bruce Lindsey, a professor with the Auburn University Rural Studio program, said Wilson’s influence with their program has been very profound.

“Dr. Wilson knows where he is from and where he is,” Lindsey said. “And furthermore, he helps us better understand where we are from and where we are. We will all take solace in knowing he is from here.”

Minnie Early, Wilson’s sister, said it was always Wilson’s dream to become a chancellor. Though they will miss him, she said, they are proud of him and wish him the best.

“David has done so many great things for this community,” Early said. “The family is behind him 100 percent to move on to rewarding and more challenging endeavors.”