Remembering Fred Wilson
January 10, 2011
By Chuck Charnquist B.S. ’58
His ‘Hi padnah!’ greeting was genuine. He looked you square in the eye when he spoke and he held your attention. A Sports Illustrated writer called him “blunt, humorous and country-articulate.” Provost Jane Atkinson, in a letter to the college community telling of Fred Wilson’s passing on December 27, said he was a Lewis & Clark legend and noted that he had engendered deep loyalty and appreciation in his students, many of whom became life-long friends.
In fact, Fred Wilson’s ability to build friendship and respect for the college and what it stands for reached far beyond the sports fields and classrooms during his 32 years as a coach, faculty member and administrator on Palatine Hill.
Wilson passed away at the age of 85. A memorial is scheduled on the Lewis & Clark campus for January 23, 2 p.m., at the Agnes Flanagan Chapel.
Fred O. Wilson was one of five children born to Francis Marion (“Doc”) and Runa Wilson of Warrenton, Oregon. He played high school football, basketball and baseball in that small coastal town and often jokingly bragged that he graduated in the top six of his 1944 class, but afterwards noting that there were only six in the class. Like many of his generation, Fred joined the military right out of high school and saw duty with the U.S. Air Force in Europe in the closing days of World War II.
Following his discharge, Wilson enrolled at the University of Oregon where he played on the Duck football team. He transferred to Lewis & Clark in the spring of 1948 and began a life-long love affair with all things Pioneer.
Fred went on to excel in three sports, earning three letters each in baseball, basketball and football. He was an all-conference infielder in baseball; a guard on the 1948-49 basketball team that won the school’s first ever Northwest Conference championship, and defensive captain and first-team all-NWC on the great undefeated 1950 football team.
After graduation in 1951, Wilson taught and coached for five years, first at Rainier then Albany, Oregon, high schools. He answered the call of his college football mentor Joe Huston in 1957 and returned to his alma mater as head baseball and assistant football coach.
When Huston stepped aside to concentrate on duties as athletic director in 1965, Wilson coached both baseball and football for two years. 1966-67 was tremendous for Fred and his Pioneers. The football team finished with an 8-1 record and the Northwest Conference title, earning him NAIA District 2 Coach of the Year honors, and the baseball team that spring went 15-3 in league play and also won the conference title.
Overall, Fred coached football for 20 years, baseball for 11, had a turn at coaching wrestling, and was the school’s athletic director for 17 years. But if he had a favorite, it may have been golf coach, a position he filled for 19 years until his retirement in 1989. Wilson was at his competitive best with a golf club in hand, whether coaching or challenging a friend’s shot on the green.
Wilson is a five-time inductee into the Pioneer Athletic Hall of Fame—as an individual, team member and coach. The playing surface in Griswold Stadium was named “Fred Wilson Field” in his honor in 2006. This past summer, it was resurfaced and rededicated with Fred in attendance. Despite failing health in the past couple of years, he was a regular presence at Pioneer athletic events.
Fred is survived by his wife of 47 years, Virginia; sons Daniel and Terry; grandchildren Lily, Henry, Brady and Kelsey, and a sister, Marion Krebs of Encinitas, California.
The family would like all memorial gifts made to the Fred Wilson Endowment. Started in October of 2006, in conjunction with the naming of the field in Griswold Stadium, this endowment enhances the critical funds essential for the recruitment of quality student-athletes in all sports.