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Giving Back

NC State University Foundation Honors Fred and Barbara Wilson with Menscer Cup Award

From left: Ghazale Johnston, Chancellor Randy Woodson, Fred Wilson '61 and Barbara Wilson. Photo by Marc Hall.
From left: Ghazale Johnston, chair of the NC State University Foundation Board of Directors, Chancellor Randy Woodson, Fred Wilson '61 and Barbara Wilson. Photo by Marc Hall.

Fred Wilson Jr.’s gifts to NC State’s College of Textiles have humble roots. He made his first donation, of $25, in 1995 on Valentine’s Day to support the college’s Dean’s Textiles Innovation Fund. 

Twenty-three years later, in 2018, he and his wife, Barbara, joined their family in making a far larger contribution to the college that educated three generations of the Wilson family. That $28 million gift named the Wilson College of Textiles in perpetuity and is still the largest gift ever made to the college in its 123-year history. 

To honor the Wilsons’ extraordinary generosity and dedication, the NC State University Foundation recently recognized the couple with its 2022 Menscer Cup Award. This honor, which was established in 1997, is presented to individuals or families who exemplify the philanthropy, dedication and leadership of the foundation’s former board chair Darrell Menscer and his late wife, Carolyn.

The NC State University Foundation held a special joint ceremony on Dec. 8 to celebrate the Wilsons and Dewayne and Adama Washington, who are the recipients of the Jerry and Elizabeth Godwin Red Torch Award. The event was held in Carter-Finley Stadium’s Dail Club and was attended by the couples’ friends and family members, college deans, faculty members and more. 

“It’s an honor to be here tonight to help shine the spotlight on two couples who have truly gone above and beyond to help NC State,” Chancellor Randy Woodson said during the ceremony. “Dewayne and Adama Washington and Fred and Barbara Wilson have not just given transformational gifts to areas of our university that are important to them; they have encouraged others to give by providing them with a lasting example of selfless support.”

Fred Wilson and Barbara Wilson
During the Menscer Cup Award ceremony on Dec. 8, Fred Wilson ’61 and Barbara Wilson spoke about their philanthropic journey at NC State, which has generously benefited the Wilson College of Textiles.

The Wilsons

A native of High Point, North Carolina, Fred graduated from NC State in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in textile chemistry, which is now polymer and color chemistry. He went on to become chairman of the board of directors of Piedmont Chemical Industries Inc., a family-owned and -operated chemical manufacturer headquartered in his hometown. The business was founded by Fred Wilson Sr. in 1938 to support the local textile industry and, in addition to other products, manufactures a wide array of textile chemicals to address the wet processing of fiber, yarn and fabric.

Today, Piedmont Chemical is a global firm with production sites in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, additional manufacturing partners serving the Caribbean, Central America and Asia, and a diversified portfolio of products. 

Together, Fred and Barbara are generously philanthropic to a range of educational and community efforts including NC State, High Point University and more.

Fred’s son Frederick “Rick” Eugene Wilson III followed in his academic footsteps in 1987, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in textile chemistry from the Wilson College of Textiles. Two years later, Cres Wilson Calabrese joined her father and brother in the ranks of the Wilson College of Textiles’ alumni with her own bachelor’s degree in textile chemistry. Rick is now the CEO of Piedmont Chemical, and Cres is its vice president and chief strategy officer.

The latest member of the Wilson family to graduate from NC State is Fred’s grandson Frederick “Rede” Wilson IV, who, in 2016, graduated from the Wilson College of Textiles with his own bachelor’s degree in polymer and color chemistry.

Needless to say, NC State — the Wilson College of Textiles, in particular — has meant a tremendous amount to the Wilson family.

They, in turn, have given a tremendous amount back to their alma mater.

The Wilson family’s history of philanthropic support for the university includes numerous gifts to:

  • the Dean’s Textiles Innovation Fund,
  • the NC State Student Financial Aid Association,
  • the North Carolina Textile Foundation Support Fund,
  • NC State Athletics,
  • and more.

The Wilsons’ generosity is perhaps best known by the truly transformative gift that was made in 2018 during the university’s Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign. The Wilsons were invaluable leaders of that historic fundraising effort through their $28 million naming gift to the Wilson College of Textiles.

The distributions from the Wilson endowment are having a profound impact on the college’s work. Just a few examples include:

  • enabling the college to pursue an embedded counselor to assist the college in strengthening its wellness programs;
  • providing professional development opportunities for students, staff and faculty members;
  • establishing collaborative research and innovation spaces;
  • and supporting the building of unprecedented community college collaborations.

The gift also led to the establishment of the new Wilson for Life program, which supports the college’s 11,000 passionate alumni. Launched in August, the initiative is a collaborative effort that highlights the college’s commitment to providing lifetime support to its students and alumni with differentiated, continuous and impactful learning and training, professional development and career support and worldwide networking experiences.

This incredible example of philanthropy goes far beyond its monetary value, though. Because of the Wilsons, the Wilson College of Textiles will continue to be a vital, vibrant leader in education, discovery and practical application of textiles innovation for years to come.

And it will proudly bear the family’s name in perpetuity as NC State’s second named college.

“When Fred informed us that he and his family had decided to gift our college with an unrestricted $28 million, perhaps even he didn’t know the full impact they were about to have on thousands of people’s lives,” David Hinks, dean of the Wilson College of Textiles, said.

The Wilsons’ transformational gift ensures the perpetual existence of the only remaining college or school of textiles in the Americas, which means that Wilson College will be forever supporting the U.S. textile and apparel industry, with its more than 500,000 workers.

— David Hinks, Ph.D.
Dean, Wilson College of Textiles

“The Wilsons’ passion for supporting local and North Carolina-focused causes and programs that they care deeply about sends a message to us all during the upcoming holiday season: that kindness and compassion and helping others is what truly lifts our communities,” Hinks added. 

The Wilsons have also played a major role in NC State’s Guardian Wolves program. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of most public events in 2020, collegiate athletics programs all across the country faced serious financial challenges. A group of Guardian Wolves contributed at a significantly high level in order to keep NC State Athletics financially solvent and to balance the budget during that critical period.

The original article was published here.