"Anyone who has caught the Appalachian spirit knows that we can't truly do well unless we're also going to do good. Service runs through our veins."
– Brad Wilson '75
"Making a difference is the only thing that matters."
– Carole Wilson '75
Brad and Carole Wilson have been engaged alumni since graduating in 1975, and they aspire to support student-leaders steeped in the Appalachian experience to make a difference in the world.
More than 40 years ago, Carole Wilson dreamed of becoming a public school teacher and a scholarship loan made her dream possible. She and her husband, Brad Wilson, both Appalachian State University graduates of the Class of 1975, know that now – more than ever – paying for a college education can be a struggle.
"I personally know the benefit of financial support," Carole Wilson said.
That's why the Wilsons chose in early 2013 to pay it forward with a $3 million contribution to the Campaign for Appalachian, the largest gift ever made by alumni. Their gift established the Wilson Scholars Program, which offers high-achieving incoming freshmen a merit-based, full-ride scholarship beginning in the 2014-15 academic year.
"For many students, the Wilson Scholars Program will eliminate the financial barrier to a high quality, comprehensive college experience," Carole Wilson said.
"We are fortunate to be able to make this commitment," Brad Wilson said. "Our Appalachian experience is the reason that we can."
Their vision for 'stellar' leaders
The Wilsons envision a scholarship program that creates stellar leaders engaged in their community. They want graduates who can solve problems facing local communities, North Carolina and the planet.
"We know we have to have strategy, creativity, collaboration and relentless commitment to do the right things," Brad Wilson said. "One of the most exciting parts of the Wilson Scholars is that they will come from across the academic disciplines. We need the business student's problem-solving, the artist's creativity, the scientist's spirit of experimentation, the teacher's dedication and the political leader's understanding of history."
When people from other states ask the Wilsons why North Carolina is a different kind of place, "We have an answer," Carole Wilson said. "We believe it's because of the values that our universities, especially Appalachian, teach those young men and women."
Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Carole Wilson said, "'I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.' That idea is the foundation of the Wilson Scholars Program... because in the final analysis, making a difference is the only thing that matters."
The Wilsons' civic engagement
Brad and Carole Wilson have been engaged alumni since graduating from Appalachian in 1975. Their history of service to Appalachian includes annual leadership gifts to The Appalachian Fund and support of the Yosef Club, Alumni Council, Department of History and College of Arts and Sciences.
Brad Wilson is president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Also a former chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, Wilson received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from Appalachian's College of Arts and Sciences in 2005 and the Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2001. He also has served on Appalachian's College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Council.
Following graduation, Carole Wilson taught history in the public schools, worked with students with learning disabilities, and was a private tutor. Although she no longer teaches, Wilson continues to influence the lives of children in the Triangle area. She is a member of the boards of the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Safechild, N.C. Museum of Art Foundation, Carolina Ballet, Durham Nativity School, and the Action for Children-NC advisory board.
To honor the Wilsons for their commitment, the new honors and student leadership and residential hall complex on campus was named the Brad and Carole Wilson Honors and Engagement Community in March 2013.