By Jacob McConnico
February 19, 2004
Wake Forest University presented the Medallion of Merit to Provost Emeritus Edwin G. Wilson at the university’s Founders’ Day Convocation Feb. 19. The Medallion of Merit is Wake Forest’s highest award for service to the university.
Wilson, a long-time English professor and administrator known affectionately as “Mr. Wake Forest” among generations of Wake Forest alumni, has been associated with the university since he entered as a freshman in 1939 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1943. A half century of continuous service to the university began in 1951, when he began teaching English full-time. Between 1943 and 1951, Wilson served as a U.S. Navy officer in World War II, taught a year at Wake Forest and earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in English at Harvard University.
Throughout his career, Wilson held numerous high-level administrative positions while earning recognition as a much-admired English professor specializing in the Romantic poets – William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Keats and many others. At the Feb. 19 convocation, it was announced that “through his (Wilson’s) courses on the Romantic poets, students have been enabled to find in poetry an ageless truth and beauty and to better appreciate the richness of art and the richness of life.”
During his career at Wake Forest, he held administrative positions in the following order: assistant dean of the undergraduate College, acting dean of the College, dean of the College, provost (the university’s first), vice president for special projects and senior vice president. As an administrator, he is likely best known as provost, a position he held from 1967 until 1990.
In 1992, the university opened a new 53,000-square-foot wing of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library named in his honor.
Outside the university, Wilson has been associated with numerous arts-related organizations through service on their boards. They include the Piedmont Opera Theatre, the Winston-Salem Arts Council, the North Carolina Arts Council and Reynolda House, Museum of American Art. He has also served on the board of trustees at Winston-Salem State University.
Wilson also has been closely associated with intercollegiate athletics. In addition to serving as Wake Forest’s representative to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Wilson has served as president of the ACC.
He has also been recognized for his service to North Carolina. He is a 2002 recipient of the North Carolina Award for Public Service. The North Carolina Award is the highest honor the state can bestow.
Wilson is married to the former Emily Louise Herring, a teacher and poet. They have three children.