Beginnings in Boone
In 1975, Brad and Carole Wilson graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Boone is a small mountain town full of beauty, culture, and hiking trails. It’s also known for a spirited university nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina that is home to more than 18,000 students. Four decades after the Wilsons earned their degrees, ASU students are still researching, studying, loudly cheering on their football team, and enjoying North Carolina’s gorgeous outdoors in their free time.
While App State’s campus may be a bit larger and the school’s degree programs more varied than they were four decades ago, students still want essentially the same things: to learn from respected educators and researchers, to identify a career path that applies their knowledge and skills in service to society, and to simply enjoy their college years.
Brad studied history at App State, while Carole wanted to become a teacher. Their classes, their extracurricular activities, their years spent in Boone all added up to one full experience – their own “Appalachian Experience.”
The Birth of the Wilson Scholars Program
The Wilsons have stayed connected to their alma mater — and not just by returning to their collegiate home during football season. As engaged alumni and civic leaders, the Wilsons wanted to give back to the community and allow other students to have the same opportunity to relish a true Appalachian Experience.
In 2013, the Wilsons offered to fund full-ride scholarships to select students, covering the cost of four years at ASU, plus a few other perks and stipends. These Wilson Scholars are chosen based on academics, civic engagement, and of other qualifying attributes. The scholarship is known as one of the most prestigious at the school; the awarded students are some of the best of the best.
“For many students, the Wilson Scholars Program will eliminate the financial barrier to a high quality, comprehensive college experience,” Carole Wilson said of the program.
“We are fortunate to be able to make this commitment. Our Appalachian Experience is the reason that we can.” — Brad Wilson, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
The first group of scholars answered their phones in 2014 to hear Brad Wilson personally offering the prestigious award. In 2015, a second group answered the same call.
The Future is Bright for These Wilson Scholars
Already, these scholars are changing the world. They are traveling the globe to work, learn and serve others. Scholar Madeline Hamiter is working with campus groups to ensure justice and equality throughout the university, and Lily Shaw is planning a spring trip focused on service. Sarah Aldridge is studying to reform education, while Emma Labovitz is studying in Spain and working as a Peace Corps Student Ambassador. Their commitment to bringing about positive change is typical of previous recipients.
Supporting education and promoting service to North Carolinians are core beliefs of Brad and Carole Wilson. In addition to their contributions to ASU, the Wilsons have also made a donation to Wake Forest University Law School to fund both a scholarship and a Career Development Center.