Wilson's Laird Hall was the site of the Sesquicentennial Gala.

Wilson College threw itself a birthday bash over the weekend that included a host of homecoming activities, a ribbon-cutting for a new veterinary education center, the naming of an outdoor space for a former president and the coup de grâce─a formal gala featuring a performance by a world-renowned children’s orchestra.

Wilson is celebrating its Sesquicentennial─the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1869 and opening in 1870─over a 15-month period that began in March with a celebration of the college’s Charter Day.

On Friday, Oct. 18, the college hosted its annual “BBQ and Brew” under a tent on the quad. Wilson’s Homecoming and Family Weekend also featured a number of exhibits and presentations, as well as building tours and several athletics contests that involved alumni and current students. One game featuring the “Invincibles” vs. the “Defenders” re-enacted an 1895 women’s basketball contest.

“It was a grand celebration of all that is Wilson, including our 150th birthday,” said A. Richard Kneedler, Wilson College interim president. “Wilson has a long tradition of helping students find their voice and becoming empowered as leaders. This weekend was about celebrating how Wilson makes a difference in the lives of each and every student, faculty and staff member, and alumna and alumnus. There is something truly special about this fine institution.”

The gala, which nearly 300 guests attended, was held Saturday evening in Laird Hall. Wilson friends, alumni, students, and current and former faculty and staff attended in black-tie attire, as well as several representatives from the Chambersburg Borough Council, Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, Franklin County Area Development Corp. and Franklin County Visitors Bureau.

Barbara K. Mistick, who served as Wilson’s president from 2011 through September of this year, also returned for the gala. Earlier in the day, Mistick was recognized for her service to the college when the academic quad she envisioned and directed during her tenure was renamed the Mistick Quad.

“It was gratifying to recognize one of Wilson’s most dynamic and impactful presidents in recent memory, Barbara Mistick,” said Dr. Barbara Tenney, a Wilson alumna and president of the Board of Trustees. “Overall, the weekend reflected a renewed vigor and enthusiasm at a college on the rise. I want to personally thank everyone who made our celebration such a great success.”

Led by Michale Dadap, far left, an ensemble from the Children's Orchestra Society provided entertainment for the gala.

The Children’s Orchestra Society, a New York City-based group of orchestras, chamber groups and ensembles for musically talented children and teens, sent an 18-member Elite String Ensemble (ESE) to provide musical entertainment for the evening. After dinner, the ensemble performed several selections, including the 3rd Movement of Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.”

COS Executive Director Yeou-Cheng Ma─whose father, Dr. Hiao Tsiun Ma, founded the nonprofit organization for musically talented children and teens in 1962─attended with her husband, Michael Dadap, the orchestra’s artistic director. Like her brother, acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Dr. Yeou-Cheng Ma was herself a child prodigy─on the violin─and later became a pediatrician. Wilson honored her during the gala with an honorary Doctor of Humanities. Ma and her husband, a guitarist, also performed together.

Another highlight of the weekend was a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, officially marking the opening of Wilson’s new, $3 million veterinary education center. The new center has been named the Breakefield Veterinary Education Center in recognition of Wilson graduate Susan Breakefield Fulton, who contributed $975,000 to the project─including a $500,000 lead gift in 2016─and her sisters and fellow Wilson alumnae, Xandra Breakefield and Beverly Breakefield.

Fulton, a Wilson trustee emerita, businesswoman and philanthropist from the Class of 1961, took part in the ribbon-cutting, as did Margaret Hamilton Duprey, a Wilson Trustee who contributed $1 million to the new veterinary center, where the interior and programmatic activity will be known as The Margaret Hamilton Duprey Center for Veterinary Excellence. A lifelong horsewoman, Duprey contributed $500,000 to Wilson in 2015 to establish an innovative home healthcare nursing program for horses called Equi-Assist®.

The 9,000-square-foot veterinary center, which has been open since the start of classes in August, replaces the smaller, outdated Helen M. Beach ’24 veterinary facility, which has been razed to make room for additional campus parking.

Former Wilson President Barbara K. Mistick was honored during the gala with a standing ovation.

The veterinary center is a hub for students in the college’s VMT program—the only four-year bachelor’s degree program of its kind in Pennsylvania and only one of 22 such programs in the nation. After nursing, VMT is the most popular major at Wilson. This year, 69 students have declared VMT as their major and another 95 students intend to major in it. Forty-five pre-veterinary students are also enrolled at Wilson.

Other officials who participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony include Wilson Interim President A. Richard Kneedler, Board of Trustees Chair Barbara Tenney, Trustee James Orsini, Vice President for Academic Affairs Elissa Heil and Professor and Director of VMT Freya Burnett.

A number of events were held on campus for the families of Wilson students during the weekend, including tours, talks and a family dinner Saturday evening in the dining hall. The weekend celebration concluded with a service on Sunday at Rocky Spring Presbyterian Church, which Wilson namesake Sarah Wilson and her family attended for many years in the 1800s. The service was officiated by the Rev. Derek Wadlington, Wilson’s Helen Carnell Eden Chaplain.


Published: October 23, 2019