Saturday, December 3, 2016

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Donald G. Wilson Leaves a Legacy at SDSU

Emeritus professor Donald Wilson leaves $1.3 million to SDSU in support of outstanding electrical engineering students.
By Beth Chee

Donald Wilson headshot located in library
Donald Wilson

Donald Grey Wilson was twice named “Most Influential Instructor” by San Diego State University students in the 1980s. Though he retired in 1991, he has been a mentor to electrical engineering students ever since. 

Wilson passed away on Dec. 30 at the age of 95, but his legacy at SDSU will continue on with the Donald Grey Wilson Scholarship Fund supported by his estate gift of $1.3 million. 

"Although Dr. Wilson had long since retired when I became dean of engineering, he remained engaged with the college, providing a unique insight and perspective that only comes from a long career as an academic,” said David Hayhurst, dean of the College of Engineering.

“He remained committed to supporting exceptional students in electrical engineering. He will certainly be missed by me.”

Devotion to SDSU

Wilson received his his undergraduate degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his master’s and doctoral degrees at Harvard, and headed the University of Kansas electrical engineering department before teaching at San Diego State.  But something about SDSU really resonated with him.

In a 2009 interview, Wilson told SDSU NewsCenter, “My San Diego State experience was very rewarding, and making my contribution was a way to express my appreciation.”

After retiring, Wilson created his namesake scholarship fund for electrical engineering students, a fund that has helped many students throughout the last 20 years.

Wilson spent 30-plus years as an informal liaison between SDSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the San Diego section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the nation’s largest professional society. He was active in the institute and was always looking for ways to make meaningful connections between students and professionals in the industry.

Lifelong commitment to electrical engineering

Wilson’s career as an electrical engineer began in 1940 with a five-year stint as an instructor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Over the next five decades he conducted radar research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; chaired the electrical engineering department at the University of Kansas; consulted with the U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station on the Sidewinder Missile; held leadership positions with General Dynamics, P.R. Mallory and Company, C.C.C. Inc., Continental Resources Minerals Corporation and Tanzi Mergers and Acquisitions before landing as a lecturer at SDSU.

Continuing legacy

Wilson was preceded in death by his wife, Elizabeth L. Wilson, and is survived by three children: Kirk Lanning Wilson, Craig Gardner Wilson, and William Grey Wilson.

The Donald G. Wilson Scholarship Fund benefits outstanding and deserving students in the College of Engineering. To donate in Wilson’s memory, contact The Campanile Foundation at 619-594-2746 or donate online.