Through the Years, Wilson Day

Through the Years, Wilson Day

Celebrating 30 years of serving the community

For 30 years, first year students have blanketed the Rochester area as part of Wilson Day—a day during freshmen orientation week that is dedicated to community engagement. Wilson Day gives new students an opportunity to serve others and to understand the needs and assets of the Rochester area while getting to know each other better.

This year’s theme, Think Global, Act Local, emphasizes the importance becoming active and engaged members of the Rochester community, on and around campus.

Established in 1972, Wilson Day started as a day-long offering of seminars on the River Campus and at the Medical Center, a dinner at the Memorial Art Gallery, and a concert at Eastman Theatre. In 1988, it was changed to a day of service for first year students.

Traditionally, students were placed in over 50 agencies throughout the city of Rochester and perform a variety of tasks including washing chalkboards, painting houses, landscaping, and playing bingo in nursing homes. Today, students are still flanked with rakes, shovels, and paint brushes. They beautify city streets, classrooms, and parks. They help out at schools, senior communities, hospitals, and wherever extra bodies, hands, and voices are needed.

In 2017, the University launched its first Global Day of Service, spun from the success of so many Wilson Days. These events around the world continue the University’s tradition of service and strengthens its impact on alumni, parents, and friends.

The Wilson Example of Service

Joe Wilson ’31 was a brilliant industrialist who transformed his family business, the Haloid Company, into the global Xerox Company. As the jacket cover on his biography says, “Joe Wilson was that rare business leader who, like Henry Ford before him, or Bill Gates since, literally changed the world in which he lived.”

Joe and his wife, Marie “Peggy” Wilson, served the University as trustees and through their generous philanthropy. Their $20 million gift in 1967 was the largest gift to any University in the country at the time, even Time magazine noted it as such. By the time of his death in 1971, the Wilson’s philanthropy equated to more than $40 million. Since then, the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation has continued to support the University.

Just look around the University and the Wilson’s impact is evident—Wilson Commons, Wilson Blvd., Wilson scholarships, Wilson professorships, the Wilson collection at the Memorial Art Gallery, and, of course, Wilson Day. As benefactors, the Wilsons not only invested in the University, they strengthened its future.

Learn more about Wilson Day, the Global Day of Service, and the Wilson Society, the University’s planned giving society that honors Joe and Peggy Wilson’s legacy and celebrates those who have established a gift plan or included the University in their estate.


—Kristine Thompson, August 2018

Learn more about the 30-year history of Wilson Day here and take a look at what students did during Wilson Day 2018.

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