May 25, 2007

Wilson’s commitment to VU remembered

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David K. 'Pat' Wilson

Wilson’s commitment to VU remembered

David K. "Pat" Wilson, former chairman and life member of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust whose personal and family influence and generosity are evidenced in nearly all areas of the university, died Sunday at home. He was 87.

"Pat Wilson was a towering leader in our city,” said Martha R. Ingram, chairman of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust. “He loved Vanderbilt University with all his heart.”

Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs, said Mr. Wilson’s support for Vanderbilt is legendary.

“From his leadership of the Board of Trust to his tireless efforts to raise funds for capital projects to his generous funding of endowed chairs and medical scholarship programs, Pat Wilson made it possible for the University and Medical Center to grow into the world-class institutions they are today,” Jacobson said.

Mr. Wilson, a 1941 graduate of Vanderbilt, was elected to the Board of Trust in 1963 and served as its chairman from 1981 to 1991 at a time when Vanderbilt achieved significant growth.

He had a role in every major Vanderbilt fund-raising effort in the past four decades. From 1970 to 1974, Mr. Wilson chaired the Harold S. Vanderbilt Challenge, which raised $10 million. From 1976 to 1981, he chaired the Centennial Campaign, which started out with a goal of $150 million and ended up raising $165 million.

He served on the steering committee of the 1990s Campaign for Vanderbilt, which raised more than $557 million and was a member of the planning committee for the current Shape the Future campaign.

After graduating from Vanderbilt, Mr. Wilson attended Harvard Business School before volunteering a year later for the U.S. Navy during World War II.

He returned to Nashville in 1946 and co-founded Cherokee Insurance Company, which evolved into Cherokee Equity Corp. He served as its chairman until his death.

In 1942, Mr. Wilson married Anne Potter, daughter of Justin and Valere Potter. Upon the death of Justin Potter in 1961, half of his substantial estate was used to establish the Justin and Valere Potter Foundation, which over the years has benefited countless charities and organizations, including Vanderbilt University.

Mr. Wilson, the Wilson family and the Potter Foundation have endowed faculty chairs in the Medical School, Law school, Divinity School, College of Arts and Science, Owen School of Management and School of Nursing.

Hundreds of students have gone to the medical school on Potter Scholarships and to the law school on a scholarship named for Mr. Wilson's son Patrick, who died in a automobile accident before he was to have entered Vanderbilt Law School.

Mr. Wilson was instrumental in the founding of the Owen School, leading the effort to raise a $6 million endowment to establish the school and donating the property, a funeral home on West End Avenue, that would become the school's first home.

One of Mr. Wilson's most recent Vanderbilt endowments was a chair in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in memory of his first wife, Anne Potter Wilson, who died of cancer in 1986.

In addition to chairing the Board of Trust for 10 years, Mr. Wilson served as a member of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association Board of Directors and chairman of the Medical Center Board and the Board of Trust Management Committee.

"It would be impossible to overstate Pat Wilson's impact on Vanderbilt, and on Nashville," said Chancellor Gordon Gee. "His commitment to the university touched, literally, every corner and every aspect of this campus, from buildings to scholarships to faculty chairs.

Mr. Wilson was a Nashville community leader, having served on the boards of the Cumberland College Board of Trust, Montgomery Bell Academy and the Traveller's Rest Museum. He was a former president of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and of Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art and served on the Metro Airport Authority.

He helped found Leadership Nashville and was honored with the 1998 United Way Alexis de Tocqueville Society Volunteer of the Year Award. Nationally, he served as a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a member of the president's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, a trustee of the Robert A. Taft Institute of Government, chairman of the Republican National Finance Committee and co-finance chairman of Lamar Alexander's 1996 presidential campaign.

“He gave wise counsel to generations of Vanderbilt chancellors and board chairmen,” Ingram said. “He connected Vanderbilt with the community, and the community with Vanderbilt. His fingerprints are all over the campus — from the Law School to the Blair School of Music. He was passionate in supporting both students and faculty, in the college as well as the graduate schools."

Survivors include his wife, Paula R. Wilson; and three sons, Justin Wilson, William Wilson and Blair Wilson, all of Nashville.

Funeral services were held May 23 at First Presbyterian Church of Nashville.