Calvin College Loses Legendary Professor and Calvin Sports Fan

Calvin College Loses Legendary Professor and Calvin Sports Fan

Calvin College has lost another legendary Knight.

Longtime Calvin College sociology professor Don 'Doc' Wilson passed away early Sunday morning.

As a Calvin professor and also in retirement, Wilson and his wife Hilda were incredible supporters of Calvin's athletics teams. In particular, Wilson was an inveterate fan of the Calvin men's and women's track and field teams. Beginning in 1977, he attended more than 35 consecutive MIAA Field Days, often witnessing his beloved Knights capture MIAA track and field titles.

In addition, he attended several NCAA III outdoor Track and Field Championships, traveling to places such as St. Lawrence University in upstate New York and Waverly, Iowa, in northern Iowa.

Beyond track and field however, Wilson and his wife Hilda were regulars at nearly every Calvin home sporting event. At one point, he estimated that he and Hilda attended on average nearly 100 Calvin sporting events a year.

"I find Calvin athletes to be highly disciplined and remarkably fine people," he said in an interview with Calvin's alumni magazine Spark in 2008. "The kids have adopted Hilda and me as their mascots," he joked.

"Don's passing is indeed a great loss for the Calvin community," said Dr. Nancy Meyer, Calvin's co-director of athletics and former Calvin women's cross country coach.  "His teaching was legendary and his love for Calvin and his students was so apparent, but I'd argue that his love for athletes was extraordinary."

In 1996, he was selected the Division III recipient of the Sears Diehard Fan of the Year - an award given out by the Sears Corporation to one loyal fan at the Division I, Division II, Division III and NAIA levels.

The award brought Wilson a hefty trophy as well as two tickets to the NCAA National Championship of his choice. He and Hilda later chose to attend the 1997 NCAA I Men's Basketball Final Four in Indianapolis and saw an Arizona team led by head coach Lute Olson win the national title with a win over the University of Kentucky.

A signature of Wilson's tenure was his devotion to sending cards to every one of his students on their birthday including Calvin's student-athletes. At other times, he would send cards with simple words of encouragement. In addition, he sent cards to fellow faculty and staff members on their birthday, often purchasing cards in bulk to prepare for the upcoming year.

At one point, Wilson estimated that he sent out nearly 6,000 cards a year.

With his sociology office located just a few doors down from the Calvin Sports Information office for several years, Wilson was a frequent drop-in, often searching for the latest sports news or the most recent media guide to have rolled off the printing press.

Also an ordained pastor, Wilson married more than 300 Calvin students during his time as a professor. Some of the married couples were Calvin student-athletes.

"I think the thing that stands out to me about Don was his support and encouragement for students," said former Calvin men's athletics director and longtime Calvin track and field coach Dr. Ralph Honderd. "He and his wife Hilda went out of their way to get to know every individual on our teams as well as coaches and parents. They were a wonderful couple who provided joy to everyone."

Don Wilson was preceded in death by Hilda who passed away last May.

He was born in Des Moines, Iowa. He graduated from Des Moines East High School and later earned his bachelor's degree at Wheaton College (Il.) and his master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Chicago. His research interest was cultural anthropology.

Prior to teaching at Calvin, he served as a professor at his alma mater Wheaton College.
In 2008 he was presented with Calvin's Faith and Learning Award for his longtime service to the college.

He is survived by his children David and Sarah Wilson as well as several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

A funeral service at Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids is scheduled for this Friday at 4 p.m. with a light supper to follow.