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Meet Mike Wilson ’88

Newly appointed Executive Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement

Newly appointed Executive Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement 

After an hour spent with Mike Wilson, newly appointed executive director of alumni and parent engagement, one can quickly identify the common threads that unite all who have experienced Furman.

He might begin by telling you about his classic love story with fellow alumna Jill Owens Wilson ’90, a Furman legacy of two alumni parents and a Paladin brother. On their first date, the pair walked around the lake and strolled past the Bell Tower. And, his proposal story is one of Furman legend.

Shortly after graduation, Wilson proposed at a home football game versus the Citadel in front of one of the largest crowds in school history. “As soon as the PA announcer directed everyone’s attention to the scoreboard for an important announcement with my message to Jill, all of the Citadel fans started chanting ‘Say no!’” he laughs.

Thankfully, she ignored the visitor’s side of Paladin Stadium that day and Furman clenched a victory over a time-tested rival.

Or, he might share how a football scholarship led to a glittering track career, including a record for the 4×400 meter relay that remains unbroken. “My coach, Dick Sheridan, gathered several of us together in a room and introduced us to Gene Mullin, the track coach. He promised us we could avoid two weeks of spring practice if we ran track, so we all signed up.” Wilson missed the football national championship season of 1988 by one year, but he jokes he taught them all they knew.

As a first generation college student, the self-proclaimed ‘country boy’ came to Furman as valedictorian of his high school class at Crescent High in Iva, S.C. He had a passion for history and quickly came to understand the rigor for which Furman remains famous.

“My first test was in Western Civilization with Dr. (John) Block ’63. I thought I did pretty well but I was shocked to receive a C-. Dr. Block was my advisor at the time and said it was not just about knowing the answers but knowing how to answer that mattered. He told me Furman was going to teach me how to think, deduce, infer, and project.”

This lesson was a seminal moment for Wilson in valuing the way Furman educates. “We create independent thinkers. Whenever I hear people share what they look for in any industry when hiring employees, they describe the Furman product – an individual with a demand for excellence who is well-rounded, a critical thinker, and a true leader.”

Furman also shaped Wilson’s passion for the arts. “I grew up in the country, but Furman exposed me to the ways art can transform. I developed appreciation for its ability to stimulate the economy, to provide well-roundedness, and to strengthen a community.”

Through his local community involvement, which is vast, Wilson’s art-focused leadership includes memberships on the board of the Governor’s School of the Arts Foundation, Artisphere, and the Metropolitan Arts Council. Still an avid sportsman, Wilson recently returned from a shrimping and alligator hunting trip with three fellow Furman alumni and football players.

After graduating, Wilson began a 25-year career at Duke Energy. He held many different positions, ranging from regulatory affairs to planning and marketing, but ultimately became the government and community relations district manager for Greenville and Spartanburg counties.

While the professional shift to higher education might be new, Wilson garnered experience in educational leadership as an elected member of the board of trustees for Anderson School District One. “The jump from corporate culture to higher education is a natural transition. Our alumni and parents are our ‘customers’ and it is our job to engage with them to see what they want – what is working well and how we can improve,” he said.

As Wilson begins his career at Furman next month, the question for many is how he can elevate, energize, and mobilize the Furman alumni network. “We have a fabulous product and tremendous alumni spread across the world. But these days there is so much competing for our attention and it is more important than ever to tell our story and show our value,” he said. “We have to raise our hand and talk about who we are with class. We can’t expect others will hear how great we are if we don’t tell them.”

Also important to Wilson is helping connect successful Furman alumni with recent graduates. “We owe it to them to help navigate the minefields of the working world. We can mentor and help propel a young person so they may advance their career and life goals.”

Wilson will begin this new journey on November 3 and looks forward to connecting to all alumni and parents in the days to come. “I have had the chance to work with a great organization with a solid impact on our region, but this opportunity offers the ability to make an impact on the world through the strength of our Furman alumni. One can’t turn that kind of chance down.”

Read Mike Wilson’s Bio

Last updated October 17, 2014
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director