by Dru Walters, Student Contributor
Dr. Wilson is quick to remind students that education changed his life. Originally from a working-class family, he is the first in his family to graduate from college. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from the University of Kentucky in 1974, before moving on to a Master of Arts degree in history in 1978, and finally, a Doctorate degree in 1983. Afterward, Dr. Wilson taught at various colleges in Central Kentucky, before marrying his wife, Karen Wilson, in 1986. The next year, their daughter Rebecca was born, and their son Daniel came along in 1990.
Dr. Wilson’s tenure at Alice Lloyd College has been split into two phases. He first arrived on the Purpose Road in 1987 to interview for a position in the history department. He fondly recalls being impressed by ALC’s advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education and knew the “small college” atmosphere was perfect for a family man like him. At the time of his interview, the college requested spouses and kids also attend the interview to better get acquainted with the college community. So, he and Karen brought one-month-old Rebecca to Appalachia with them.
Upon acceptance of the job, Dr. Wilson and his devoted wife made the move to begin their adventure in Pippa Passes, Kentucky. It would be here, on the banks of Caney Creek that Dr. Wilson would rear his children, both of whom attended The June Buchanan School (JBS), a private K-12 school located on ALC’s campus. Dr. Wilson reflects, “Having the kids at JBS meant that I didn’t have to interrupt my day to go get them. I could walk by on the way to class and pick them up.”
He left in the spring of 1997 to pursue other opportunities, though he missed his time spent on Caney Creek. During his time away, he experienced many life events – watching his children graduate from high school and college, the weddings for both children and becoming a grandfather for the first time. Dr. Wilson would return to ALC in the fall of 2015 and has remained an important part of campus since. He says, “I love the mission here. We have wonderful students that make it worth pouring my heart and soul into my work.”
Over the course of his career, Dr. Wilson has been published many times. He is the author of over twenty articles, three of which are in refereed journals. He has written one book and served as a contributing author for two others. Dr. Wilson is currently in the process of writing another book about the legacy of Alice Lloyd.
With his long list of accomplishments, it is hard to picture Dr. Stephen Wilson as anything other than a renowned professor of history. However, there was a time when Dr. Wilson wasn’t so confident in his future, but through the encouragements of his parents and mentors, he was able to succeed. “My mother was my hero. I didn’t think I was smart enough to accomplish my dreams, but I had a whole village behind me,” he says, fighting back a fond tear in his eye.
Dr. Stephen Wilson is the embodiment of the Purpose Road Philosophy, as he is always mentoring students both inside and outside the classroom. He reminds them to never give up on their dreams because, through education and hard work, he was able to achieve his own. It’s no wonder that students have gifted him with the affectionate nickname, “Pappy”; a title he wears with both good humor and honor.