Alumnus Harmon Wilkinson, Wilkinson College’s namesake, said in his 1982 address at the Fall Faculty Conference of then Chapman College that to him Chapman “has a soul—has character and purpose.”
Having received Wilkinson College’s new newsletter, We are Wilkinson, Dr. Karen Wilkinson, daughter of Harmon, reached out to the college on the newly adopted tagline “the heart and soul of Chapman University,” making an instant connection to her father’s 1982 quote. When asked for a comment on her father’s remark, Dr. Wilkinson reflected:
When a college deeply cares that its students learn to become better people, with greater potential to help improve the world and live enriched personal lives, then that place has a soul.
As a brief history lesson, Wilkinson College was founded in 1991 as part of the Chapman College transformation into Chapman University. The college faculty, under the leadership of then-Dean Karl Reitz, voted to take the name “Wilkinson College of Letters and Sciences” to honor the service and legacy of Harmon Wilkinson.
Dr. Reitz characterized the naming decision as, “natural,” because of Harmon’s commitment to the Chapman community, to values, social issues, and service. “As the liberal arts and sciences are the heart of a Chapman education, it is fitting that the college is named for a man who believes that our institution should have both a heart and a soul,” Dr. Reitz said.
Harmon Wilkinson was named to the board after his father’s passing in 1969 and served continuously until retiring his membership in 2000. His daughter Dr. Karen Wilkinson was named to the board upon her father’s retirement. A sociologist, Dr. Wilkinson served as department head of liberal studies at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan.
When asked to comment on her father’s philosophy of the liberal arts education, Dr. Wilkinson noted:
[Students] should be touched in ways that help them to be ethical, concerned for others and always passionate about learning. As long as Wilkinson College continues to do this, it can certainly be called the heart and soul of Chapman University.
Harmon and Nadine Wilkinson helped to shape the Chapman value-centered liberal arts experience, providing funding for the chapel, student scholarships, special events, establishing the Delp-Wilkinson Peace Lecture Series and Delp-Wilkinson Endowed Chair of Peace Studies.
Harmon passed away in February 2006 at age 93, followed by Nadine in December 2006, but the Wilkinsons will never be forgotten at Chapman. Chapman President James Doti said: “In word and deed, he taught us that our lives are made richer and fuller when we give ourselves in service to others and to higher causes.
Looking toward the future Wilkinson College remains committed to this vision, and Dr. Wilkinson’s words serve not only as a reminder of where our incredibly rich community of scholarship and community began, but also, how our larger university-wide community of students, faculty, staff and community members work toward the university’s mission of leading to inquiring, ethical, and productive lives as global citizens.