CUYAHOGA FALLS — Today’s school officials remember Dr. Harold Wilson as an important and impactful leader during his 24-year tenure as superintendent of the Cuyahoga Falls City Schools.
Dr. Wilson, who lived in Cuyahoga Falls, died March 2 at age 91.
Daniel Wilson said his late father “was most proud of his efforts that lead to the enactment of federal legislation to require public school districts provide appropriate education to students with special needs, Public Law 94-142, in 1974.”
“In 2008 and 2009, Dr. Wilson chaired the Ashland University School Funding Study Group that crafted a new state funding formula for Ohio public education titled ‘A Teacher-Based Model to Reform Ohio Public School Funding,’” according to a biography submitted by the family. “The Study group included his son Daniel Wilson, former Cuyahoga Falls Superintendent Dr. Ed Holland, and Vicki Wheatly. The research was published and presented nationally and is currently being used to create a new state funding program for Ohio.”
Dr. Wilson enlisted in the U.S. Navy after graduating from high school and served during World War II in the Pacific. He remained in the Navy in both active duty and reserve duty, rising to the rank of captain. He was the ranking officer at the Akron Naval Reserve Center at the time of his retirement in 1982.
Dr. Wilson’s mother, Helen was an elementary school teacher and Dr. Wilson chose to follow his mother into a career in public education and higher education, according to information provided by his family.
Dr. Wilson received his bachelor's, master's and doctorate from The Ohio State University. He started his career as a science teacher and football coach at Chillicothe High School. He was superintendent of the Amity Local School District, West Jefferson Local School District, research sssistant at The Ohio State University, assistant superintendent at Lancaster City School District, and finished his public education career as superintendent of the Cuyahoga Falls City School District from 1962 to 1987.
During his tenure in Cuyahoga Falls, he presided over a growing school district and oversaw the construction of Roberts Middle School. The administrative offices for the district are named for Dr. Wilson.
“Dr. Wilson was instrumental in the development of the Six-District Educational Compact, the first of its kind in Ohio,” Superintendent Todd Nichols said. “Dr. Wilson was also instrumental in the develop of the Cuyahoga Falls City Schools’ Foundation which started with one $500 scholarship. If we reflect upon the world, national, state, and local events that took place in the 24 years of his tenure, the true test of his vast expertise, judgment, and flexibility is realized. He was a true patriarch to so many educational leaders. We all owe Dr. Wilson a great deal to gratitude. He was an amazing educational leader.”
School board member Kathy Moffet said she knew Dr. Wilson in several capacities.
“When his son Dan was in junior high, I learned about Dr. Wilson’s sense of humor when Dan and I would chat on the phone about homework or our events of the day at Sill,” Moffet said. “Often Dr. Wilson would interject something funny as he overheard our conversations.”
Moffet said she was impressed by the curriculum offered under his leadership.
“Under Dr. Wilson’s leadership we were afforded classes that many surrounding high schools did not offer,” Moffet said. “Due to this, I felt many of us were at an advantage and were able to launch into college programs or professions with skills that made those transitions easier. I always had great respect for Dr. Wilson and his dedication and drive to bring the best education possible to the students in his district.”
When Moffet became a trustee on The Cuyahoga Falls City School Foundation, “Dr. Wilson’s legacy became even more apparent,” she said.
“The foundation began with him and grew because of his desire to provide scholarships to the students in the Cuyahoga Falls City Schools,” Moffet said. “Today, hundreds of Cuyahoga Falls graduates have benefited from these scholarships and have received thousands of dollars from the foundation, and now Alumni Association, that began with a idea generated by Dr. Wilson. Over the years Dr. Wilson has mentored many students and conferenced with many others who sought to gain from his wisdom and expertise. He will be sadly missed.”
Dr. Wilson earned many recognitions and awards including the E.E. Lewis Award for the 1961 Outstanding Graduate Student in Residence-Area of School Administration at The Ohio State University; the 1996 Cuyahoga Falls Jaycees Dan Brady Distinguished Service Award for outstanding community service; Cuyahoga Falls Education Association Commendation Award in 1970; The Cuyahoga Falls Little League Award in 1971; the Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce First Annual Citizenship award in 1978; the Ohio PTA Oak Tree award in 1986 making him the senior member along with his son Dan to as the only father and son recipients; and the Cuyahoga Falls Foundation, Distinguished Service Award in 1992.
“Despite the many awards and honors bestowed upon him, Dr. Wilson was a humble man who loved Cuyahoga Falls,” said Daniel Wilson. “He loved sitting on his deck while reading the paper and watching the flow of the Cuyahoga River. He loved St. John’s Episcopal Church, the United States Navy, reading, card playing and coin collecting. His legacy will be all the contributions he made to public education.”
Dr. Wilson was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Frances Wilson; former wife, Delores Wilson; son, David Wilson, and daughter, Diane (Earl) Arnold.
He is survived by sons, Daniel (Sandy) Wilson of Pepper Pike, and Andrew (Jeanne) Wilson; daughter, Erica Wilson; grandchildren, Earl Arnold, Bradley Arnold, Daniel (Holli) Wilson II of Pepper Pike, Matthew (Emily) Wilson of Owings Mills, MD, Jack Wilson, Samuel Wilson, Isabella Wilson, Brett (Megan) Wilson, Patrick (Brooke) Wilson of Mich., Christopher (Shellie) Wilson of Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Lucas Wilson; and great-grandchildren, Robert “Bo” Wilson and Lincoln Wilson.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC