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Wilson Loses a Friend with Death of Jean Stapleton

Posted: June 4, 2013

While many members of the Wilson College community were celebrating Alumnae/i Reunion Weekend 2013, sad news of the passing on Friday, May 31, of a longtime friend of the College - actress Jean Stapleton - was beginning to filter out.

Stapleton, noted stage and screen actress most remembered for her role as Edith Bunker in Norman Lear's groundbreaking television show "All in the Family," received an honorary degree from Wilson at the 1997 commencement ceremony. (A newspaper article about the ceremony can be read here.)

But her relationship with the College dated further back, to the time when she and husband William "Bill" Putch operated the Totem Pole Playhouse in Caledonia. The couple lived in the area from 1958 to 1983 when Putch was producer and director of the theater and Stapleton often performed in summer stock offerings there, according to newspaper accounts.

A form nominating Stapleton for an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Wilson in 1997 states that "over the years, Ms. Stapleton has lent her name to fundraising campaigns, given her financial support and even held benefit performances for the College." It also said that Stapleton donated a collection of her archives to the Wilson library, which later - at her request - sent them to the Smithsonian Institution.

A remembrance of the 90-year-old actress, written by Martha Baum Walker '69, appeared in the June 4 Chambersburg Public Opinion.

The Wilson College community mourns the loss of a woman who was not only a role model for women around the world, but who also cared greatly for the College and generously supported it. We extend our condolences to her family and friends.

Last Updated: August 7, 2013