Dr. James Warner Wilson of Peterborough NH passed away peacefully at age 97 on April 3, 2021, at Rivermead Lifecare Community. He was born in Schenectady, NY on April 27, 1923, the son of Benjamin and Bessie (Davis) Wilson.
Jim was raised in Schenectady, NY. He earned his B.S.in psychology from St. Lawrence University, his M.A. in psychology from the University of Rochester, and his Ph.D. in education from the University of Chicago. He married Sally Beck in 1945 and began working at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1946. His tenure was largely as a researcher but included seven years as Dean of the College of General Studies. The opportunity to return to research at RIT led Jim, together with a colleague, to conduct a Ford Foundation funded national study resulting in the 1961 seminal book they co-authored entitled “Work-Study College Programs: Appraisal and Report of the Study of Cooperative Education.” This accomplishment resulted in the formation of the National Commission for Cooperative Education (NCCE) in 1962 and thereafter led to Jim and Sally’s move to Needham MA when Jim accepted Northeastern University’s (NU) endowed chair as the Asa S. Knowles Research Professorship. He was also the Director of NU’s Cooperative Education Research Center where he authored numerous books and articles, edited the Journal of Cooperative Education, conducted annual surveys of co-op programs in the USA, and traveled internationally to help establish and evaluate cooperative education programs. He received many prestigious awards acknowledging his work, and in 1997 the James W. Wilson Award was established by the Cooperative Education Association to honor him as “… the most prominent researcher in cooperative education in the second half of the century”.
The most wonderful aspect of Jim’s career was that he loved his work. His enthusiasm, depth of knowledge about education, thoughtful and inquisitive mind, and sense of humor led him to be a mentor to many whose lives he has influenced to this day. His career offered him the opportunity to make acquaintances all over the United States and the globe, many of whom he remained close to his entire life.
Upon his retirement from Northeastern University, Jim and Sally retired to Peterborough NH. Jim was an avid bridge player, loved to cook out on his grill in all kinds of weather, loved to travel, and always enjoyed his “wee dram of scotch” in the evening. He remained an avid Red Sox fan.
Jim is survived by his daughter, Becky McGrath, and son, Jeffrey Wilson, their spouses, Tom McGrath and Sophally Wilson, and two especially bright lights in his life, his grandchildren Sam and Minea McGrath. He was predeceased by his beloved wife Sally of 64 years in 2009, and his daughter Debra Wilson in 2008.
A celebration of Jim’s life will be held in-person and virtually May 15th at 12 noon at the Union Congregational Church in Peterborough, NH.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Jim’s memory to “SharingFoundation.org”, as he was always grateful to the organization who cared for and facilitated the adoption of his treasured grandchildren.
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