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Scholarship donation creates lasting legacy for Durham couple

Alumni donors Chris and Gwen Wilson pose next to the Hill Hall conference room named in their honor.

A conference room in Hill Hall is now named in honor of alumni donors Chris and Gwen Wilson.

So much has changed since Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) alumni Chris and Gwen Wilson first met outside C.G. O’Kelly Library as students.

Today, the couple, both 1983 graduates from Durham, own 14 H&R Block franchises in the Triangle as well as other businesses, including a North Carolina license plate agency contractor.    

Recently, the couple decided they wanted to inspire the next generation of leaders at WSSU by creating a need-based endowed scholarship. Their $25,000 gift was matched through the Million Dollar Match initiative, creating an impact of $50,000. Through the Million Dollar Match, all donations in 2019 toward need-based endowed scholarships are matched up to $1 million.

On Sept. 14, the Wilsons returned to campus for a dedication ceremony. At the ceremony, a plaque was unveiled, naming a second-floor conference room in the Student Success Center at Hill Hall in their honor. On the wall of their conference room, they also have left a message to students: “Time is treasure; invest it wisely.”

Here are 8 Questions with … Chris Wilson.

How did you and your wife first meet?
We met at the campus library. I saw her coming out of the library as I walked on the other side of the street. We shared this moment with our children; they were interested in knowing how we met.

Why is it important for alumni to give back to WSSU?
Giving back to the university helps support the next generation of leaders through scholarships and new programs that help students do amazing things. It helps students to participate in experiences that are high impact as they prepare for life after college.

What did the dedication mean to you?
This was an opportunity to do something amazing. It provided an opportunity to inspire others to take on the challenge to stretch beyond belief to support the institution; the place that helped to prepare us for our future and has equipped us to give back.

What appealed to you most about the naming opportunity?
The naming opportunity is a great way to leave a legacy and a message to the many students that follow! We want every student to be mindful of their time here. Thus, the message on the wall as you enter the room, “Time is treasure; invest it wisely.”

What has your degree at WSSU meant to you, and how did it help you succeed?
Our degrees open doors for us in the ‘80s and allowed us to seek and obtain jobs that otherwise were not available to us. Our time at WSSU prepared us to be curious lifelong learners. Working in corporate America prepared me to ultimately transition to entrepreneurship. Gwen serves as principal of an elementary school in the Durham Public Schools.

What advice do you have for WSSU students who may be interested in owning their own business?
Be open to a wide range of opportunities; know that your WSSU training has prepared you to do a number of things well. Success can often be found at the intersection of preparation and opportunity. Two books I recommend reading: “E Myth” by Michael Gerber and “The Serving Mindset” by Brock Farnoosh.

Where do you go for a night out?
We like to have dinner with close friends and can be found at any number of restaurants in the Triangle.

Who at WSSU most had an impact on your life and why?
Margaret Poston was a young math instructor in 1979 and very influential to me as a remarkably unremarkable kid from Shelby NC. My confidence as a college student was shaky at best when I arrived on campus. I remember her looking me eye to eye and telling me “You can do this." It was all the encouragement I needed to keep me from packing up and heading back to Shelby.

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