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By Aubrey Bresett ’01
Two SUNY Plattsburgh alumni, who have asked to remain anonymous, have pledged to match dollar for dollar the next $50,000 gifted to the James Augustus Wilson Endowment, an effort that could add $100,000 in additional support for the new scholarship geared to assist African-American student leaders.
The Wilson Scholarship was initiated by alumnus Greg Riley ’77 and Bruce Mante ’79 in late 2016 as a way to increase support for African-American students and SUNY Plattsburgh’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
The James Augustus Wilson Scholarship is the college’s first endowed scholarship specifically designated for African-American students.
“We hope this scholarship will increase the pool of African Americans who apply to and enroll at SUNY Plattsburgh,” Riley said.
Named after the first African-American student to enroll and graduate from Plattsburgh Normal School in 1902, the James Augustus Wilson Scholarship recognizes and supports full-time African-American students for their academic achievement and leadership.
“In order to celebrate the legacy of James Augustus Wilson, it is important that we select scholarship recipients that are actively involved in the college community and possess similar qualities to Mr. Wilson,” said Anne Whitmore Hansen, vice president of institutional advancement and executive director of the Plattsburgh College Foundation. “From what we gather, he was a very passionate and well-respected man.”
At Plattsburgh Normal School, the precursor to SUNY Plattsburgh, Mr. Wilson established himself as a student leader and provided a commencement address titled “Up from the Depths.” Following graduation, he earned another degree at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., where he was, once again, the commencement speaker.
“He dedicated his life to education and presented on topics of race relations. It seemed a perfect fit to honor him by naming this scholarship after him,” Hansen said, listing the universities in which Wilson taught, including Clark (now Clark Atlanta University), Sam Huston College (now Huston-Tilloston University), and Tuskegee College (now Tuskegee University), where he was the head of the English department at the time of his death in 1926.
The funding to establish the endowment, which guarantees perpetual scholarship awards, was raised in two weeks with lead gifts from Riley and Mante. That was followed by gifts from the entire SUNY Plattsburgh leadership team, consisting of the President’s cabinet, all five college deans, and several other alumni. Just over $30,000 has been gifted so far.
“From here on out, any gift made to the James Augustus Wilson Endowment will be matched until we hit the $50,000 challenge and will result in over $130,000 for the endowment,” Hansen said. “We hope this match is inspiring for donors whose gifts will automatically double, for our students who will benefit from this scholarship for years to come; and for our campus as a way to celebrate the past, while creating opportunity for the future.”
“The way people are rising up speaks so strongly to the alumni and friends of the SUNY Plattsburgh community,” Mante said. “Because of their support, young people will have the opportunity to move forward.”
For more information about supporting SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact:
Anne Whitmore Hansen
Executive Director, Plattsburgh College Foundation
Vice President for Institutional Advancement
Office: Hawkins Hall 109
Phone: (518) 564-2090