Iowa State University


James Melsa, College of Engineering, (515) 294-5935
Dalene Abner, ISU Foundation, (515) 294-8681
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- A $1 million gift from T.A. Wilson, former chairman of the board and chief executive officer of The Boeing Company, and his wife, Grace, of Seattle, has endowed a faculty chair in the College of Engineering. The chair gives preference to the Department of Civil Engineering and the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.

"Throughout his career, T.A. Wilson has shown extraordinary leadership both in business and in engineering," said ISU President Martin Jischke. "This gift to Iowa State continues Wilson's visionary leadership in engineering."

"Iowa State's College of Engineering is creating a new learning-based environment that will prepare students to meet the engineering challenges of the 21st century," said College of Engineering Dean James Melsa. "This gift helps the college build a faculty with expertise in both engineering and teaching. The Grace Miller Wilson and T. A. Wilson Endowed Engineering Chair will help launch new generations of engineers on challenging and satisfying professional careers."

The Wilson Chair recognizes two families with strong Iowa State ties embracing more than seven decades. The ISU legacy began with Grace Wilson's father, Roy Miller, who received a civil engineering degree in 1910 and a professional engineering degree in 1922. He also was a close associate of Anson Marston, ISU's first dean of engineering. Both Grace Wilson's brother, Roy Miller, Jr., and husband, T. A. Wilson, completed degrees in 1943 -- Miller in civil engineering and T. A. Wilson in aeronautical engineering. Grace Wilson completed a degree in applied art in 1944.

Following his graduation from Iowa State, T. A. Wilson immediately joined The Boeing Company, working first as a draftsman on the XC-97. His lifelong career with Boeing was interrupted by a two-year break including 1946-47 when he taught engineering at Iowa State and played a role in the development of the new aeronautical engineering department, now the aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics department. He also completed his master's degree at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

The first Boeing airplane to have a significant Wilson imprint was the dramatically new B-47 swept-wing bomber. He became overall project engineer for the B-52 program during its latter stages and led the proposal team that won the contract to produce the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile.

Wilson then managed the Minuteman program that established Boeing as a leader in multi-contractor systems integration work of vast size and complexity. In 1963, he was elected a Boeing vice president. One year later he was put in charge of operations and planning for Boeing corporate headquarters. In 1965, he was named executive vice president and became president in 1968. In 1969, he also was elected chief executive officer, and in 1972, he became chairman of the board. He continued to be a member of the board of directors until 1993, thus culminating a 48-year career with Boeing.

Wilson has received numerous honors and citations. From Iowa State, these awards include the Professional Achievement Citation in Engineering, the Distinguished Achievement Citation, and the College of Engineering Marston Medal. Iowa State conferred an honorary doctorate upon Wilson in 1993.

The 1982 Collier Trophy was awarded to Wilson and The Boeing Company for "the private development of two advanced technology transports, the 757 and 767, with the support of the Federal Aviation Administration, industry and the airlines." He was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame for engineering and managerial achievements in 1983 and into the National Business Hall of Fame in 1989.

Wilson has received the National Academy of Science Award for Aeronautical Engineering, the Daniel Guggenheim Medal, the Wright Brothers Trophy and the Forrestal Award. He is a life member of the Corporation of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a Sloan Fellow in 1952, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Wilson's gift is part of Campaign Destiny: To Become the Best, the largest private fund-raising drive in the history of Iowa State. Publicly launched in September 1996, the campaign has reached more than $140 million of its five-year, $300-million goal.

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