01/31/07 — Chamber surprises Dr. Ed Wilson with award

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Chamber surprises Dr. Ed Wilson with award

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 31, 2007 1:50 PM

Dr. Ed Wilson has shaken the hands of thousands of graduates since he became the president of Wayne Community College almost 15 years ago.

But it was Wilson who was the recipient of plenty of congratulations Tuesday night after receiving the Cornerstone Award during the 2007 Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet.

The Cornerstone Award recognizes a person, living or deceased, who has given his or her time to make Wayne County "a better place to live, work and play," outgoing chamber board chairman Tom Buffkin said.

"Community service is the price you pay to live on this Earth," Wilson said after hearing friends Tommy Jarrett and Vassie Balkcum speak of his accomplishments. "You can't do anymore than give service back to the community."

Wilson did not know in advance that he would receive the award -- or that his wife, Sue, and his son, Steve, were hidden in the audience awaiting the announcement of the honor, which is awarded annually.

He said he did not know he was the honoree until he saw a picture of himself and his mother flashed on the screen as part of the video presentation that accompanied Jarrett's introduction.

"I had no idea," he said.

Born the son of an Army veteran in Fort Benning, Ga., Wilson's family moved back to Caswell County after his father retired. Although Wilson enjoyed sports as a young man, Jarrett explained to Tuesday night's crowd that Wilson was also a man of education from an early age.

And he learned an important lesson about the English language when he served as a North Carolina legislative page at the age of 12, Jarrett said.

"The speaker told the young page he was waiting on a resolution. The page misunderstood and soon it had spread through the House, across the state and surrounding area that there was a revolution in the General Assembly. Our recipient learned how words and action can affect others," he said.

Wilson received his bachelor's and masters degrees from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his doctorate from North Carolina State University before beginning his own career of teaching students.

He worked as a teacher and assistant at Cary Elementary, a principal at Apex High School and an administrator at N.C. State before coming to Wayne Community College in 1973 to work as a educational development officer and then as the associate vice president for instructional services.

Wilson eventually moved up ladder to serve as the executive vice president and chief administrative officer for the N.C. Department of Community Colleges, which is the second-highest position in the community college system.

But he returned to Wayne County in 1992 to become the president of Wayne Community College. His accomplishments in that position brought him the honor of North Carolina Community College System's President of the Year in 2004.

But Wilson's efforts have reached far outside the classrooms of Wayne County -- and it was those many years of service that were the focus of Tuesday's honor.

Extremely active in many civic organizations around the county, Wilson has been a leader in many and a key member of many others.

In addition to his work with the chamber and with economic development in the county, Wilson has also served for many years as a board member for the United Way.

Jarrett said Wilson was also one of the prime movers in bringing a Family YMCA to Wayne County. He also headed the Cancer Crusades and chaired the Mayor's Committee for Person's with Disabilities.

On Tuesday night, Wilson joined the likes of Richard Moffatt, Hal Tanner Sr., Clarence Peacock, William Dees Jr., Hal Plonk, Bertha Shepherd Wooten, Ollie Toomey, Troy Pate Jr., Jimmie Edmundson and Bill Kemp Jr. as a recipient of the Cornerstone Award -- an honor that left him speechless.

"My staff will tell you I'm rarely at a loss for words. Tonight, I'll have to say that I am," Wilson said.

But he did thank his staff, which included Associate Vice President for Student Services Yvonne Goodman and Vice President for Academic and Student Services Dr. Kay Albertson, for their support over the years.

He pointed out that without them, and the rest of his team at Wayne Community College, he would not have been able to be so active and so much a part of the community.

Wilson also thanked his wife, Susan; daughter, Sherri; and son, Stephen, who surprised his father by coming in for the event from Charlotte.

After almost 15 years as president of Wayne Community College, Jarrett said it's impossible to gauge how many people have benefited from Wilson's presence. But it's also impossible to say that no one has.

"The dictionary defines revolution as a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure. Ed may have misunderstood that at 12 years old, but there is no mistake that Ed has brought a revolution -- a change to education in Wayne County and the state. To civic organizations, to economic development and to every person he has met and to the lives of those he did not know, but needed help," Jarrett said.