THE LEGACY OF A BELOVED TEACHER RESONATES
It’s been four decades since Glenn White ’78 sat in rapt attention as teacher Francis Wilson ’62 expounded on the wonders of biology at San Diego’s St. Augustine High School.
“He had a reputation for being pretty darn good at what he did,” White says, recalling his fascination at dissecting a fetal pig. “He knew his stuff, first of all. Mr. Wilson made biology come alive.”
After a long and successful career in biostatistics, which focuses on the development of statistical methods for biomedical research, White decided that some legacies shouldn’t be forgotten.
In 2012, he donated $60,000 to create a USD endowment, the Francis E. Wilson Jr. ’62 Scholarship Fund. Awards are made to St. Augustine graduates who plan to major in biology or mathematics at the university.
When he learned of White’s plans, Wilson, a biology major at USD, was to the point: “I was very impressed. Glenn was among the top, if not my top student,” he notes. “My legacy was to send USD good students, and Glenn is certainly the epitome of that.”
For White (pictured, above), who lives in Upper Marlboro, Md., Wilson was more than just a great teacher. His favorite instructor was the single reason that White enrolled at the university. “He just never stopped speaking well about it,” White says. “It was simply a great school, from his perspective. I decided if it’s good enough for Mr. Wilson, then I should look into it.”
USD proved to be a perfect fit. White was drawn by the institution’s small size and Catholicity. A self-described “B student,” he majored in math and commends his academic advisers and Professors for giving him extra attention in navigating his coursework.
For Wilson, himself a St. Augustine graduate who is retiring in June after a 50-year career in education, preparing young men for the world is about more than academics.
“I’ve had thousands of guys go through my classroom, but if I didn’t teach you as a student you still certainly knew who I was and what I stood for,” he says. “These guys might not become biologists, but they’re going to be really good guys — a good man, a good father and a good person — ready to do good things.”
After USD, White went on to earn a master’s degree in biostatistics from the University of Vermont. In 1980, the U.S. Census Bureau hired him as a mathematical statistician. He worked there for 11 years, creating methodologies for measuring population and unemployment. He then spent 16 years as a senior manager at auditing firm Ernst & Young, leading a team of statisticians.
These days he’s semi-retired, working part time and doing statistical work for the National Academy of Sciences, traveling (he’s been to 20 countries at last count, and this summer plans to join friends in piloting a 41-foot sailboat along the Norwegian coast), and taking part in activities with the Washington, D.C., Torero Club.
Through it all, Wilson’s influence has loomed large: “He was like a perfect father, who was also loyal to his faith and the Lord.” — Andrew Faught