The Ultimate Student

Scotty Wilson

Scotty Wilson '59 with friends Marc and Karen Powe

Some people are born to learn and born to teach. These people often march to the beat of their own drummer. They leave an impression that is not soon forgotten. That was certainly the case for Edward E. "Scotty" Wilson, class of 1959.

Marc and Karen Powe of Springfield, Va. shared a best friend in Scotty. They met him in 1970, bonded by their military experiences. They had an instant "we like each other" reaction, and from the moment they met, they were connected.

"That was the way it was with Scotty," said Karen. "He didn't make friends quickly, but once you were his friend, it was all-consuming."

"He might have seemed unfriendly to some," said Marc, "but I don't know any person who met him and didn't like and respect him profoundly."

When Wilson passed away in July of 2009, the Powes' relationship started with Davidson as Karen was the executor of Scotty's will. He left $1.3 million to his alma mater, which supports student scholarships.

"Through our conversations and through pictures, it was obvious that Scotty's happiest years were at Davidson," said Karen. "He was a quiet, modest man with an impressive breadth of knowledge. I'm not sure what things he didn't know, but I'm sure it wasn't much. He was the ultimate student, and he felt he owed a great deal to the place that gave him his start and also propelled him forward — Davidson."

After earning a degree in linguistics, Wilson gained a master's degree from Duke and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina. He was commissioned through ROTC, and he began his military service in 1963. His first overseas assignment was in France, and later in his career he served at NATO headquarters in Belgium. Wilson, a career military intelligence officer, serves as an advisor to the Vietnamese Army, and other overseas duty took him to Korea and Iran. He was an advisor to the Iranian Army when the February 1979 revolution overthrew the imperial regime. Wilson was among the last official Americans to be evacuated, and he got out with one suitcase and his dog.

"He was very proud of his military service," said Marc.

Following retirement from the U.S. Army, he taught French, Spanish, Latin and sometimes Italian. This next step was true to his commitment to scholarship and learning.

"We knew from things he shared with us that he was very popular with his students," said Karen. "When he died, the outpouring of love and support from the education community in Northern Virginia - the students who got in touch with us and came to see if they could have a book from his home library — it was heart-rending."

"I think he would be speechless about the impact his money has on students' lives," said Karen. "He would be so proud. In fact, one of the current recipients, Mitchell, is so much like him, it's incredible. He has mailed us letters, and they could have been written by Scotty himself."

"It's pretty amazing that with his income level as a lieutenant colonel, he was able to leave a legacy this large," said Marc. "He was very cautious with money. I don't know of anything he owned that was extravagant. Anything he over-spent on was for our daughters and grandchildren, whom he loved as his own."

"He was a quiet man with a loud impact," said Marc. Factually, Scotty was the author of the first-ever official unclassified history of Army military intelligence, and it has had an enormous impact inside the Army and among military historians.