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News UPDATE: Wilkie, longtime head of Sid Richardson Foundation, dies at 91

UPDATE: Wilkie, longtime head of Sid Richardson Foundation, dies at 91

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Valleau Wilkie Jr., retired executive vice president of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation from 1973 to 2011, died Tuesday in Sunapee, N.H., at 91. Wilkie was born July 3, 1923, to Valleau Wilkie Sr., and Amelia Parry Wilkie in Summit, N.J.

In February 1942, after his freshman year at Yale, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and soon became a 1st Lieutenant and co-pilot of a B-17, “the Flying Fortress,” based in the 351st Bomb Group in England in World War II. On Jan. 11, 1944, on his third mission, as his plane was being shot down over Holland, he bailed out and evaded capture for five months by living with the Dutch Underground. On an informant’s tip, the Gestapo caught and held him in solitary confinement for a month of interrogation. He was then imprisoned from June 1944 until April 1945 in two different camps in Germany. He put that experience into words 56 years later in a book that he modestly titled Recollections 1942-1945. Returning to civilian life, he completed his education, earning a Bachelor of Arts in history from Yale University in 1948 and an MA in history from Harvard University in 1953. At Yale, he played varsity football, served as president of his fraternity, DKE, and was a member of the Order of the Skull and Bones.

In 1948, he began a successful and rewarding life in education and philanthropy. At Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., he was an instructor in history and also coached football and baseball and served as a dormitory counselor for 11 years.

For the next 13 years, he served as headmaster of Governor Dummer Academy, Byfield, Mass., now known as The Governor’s Academy. Established in 1763, the Academy is the oldest boarding school in America. His responsibilities there included leading two national capital campaigns for the Thompson Arts Center and The Wilkie Center for the Performing Arts, dedicated in his honor in 2012. The positive impact that he had on both Philips Academy and The Governor’s Academy is well documented. An excerpt from The Andover Bulletin, 1959, published when Val announced that he was resigning to take the position as headmaster of The Governor’s Academy, reads: “More significant, perhaps, than any of these accomplishments were the respect and affection in which he was held by students and faculty alike. Never one to go off half-cocked, he always waited for his opinion on a given subject to mature fully before voicing it, and when he did speak, he impressed all who heard him as hard-headed and sensible. Throughout his whole life at Andover he displayed a sureness of purpose and a kind of serenity that helped to bring out the best in all who worked with him.” What The Governor’s Academy had to say about Val is equally as revealing about his leadership qualities: “Val Wilkie was a strong, decisive and inspirational leader. He brought a strength of character and determination that was forged in the crucible of his experiences in the Second World War where he emerged as a legitimate American hero.” In 1973, the late Mr. and Mrs. Perry R. Bass of Fort Worth recruited Val to head the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, which provides grants to educational, human service, health and cultural organizations in Texas. “Val Wilkie was a man of exceptional qualities,” said Edward P. Bass, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation. “He had an innate sense of generosity, consideration and compassion, which he applied with keen intellect and insight. He served as mentor and advisor to countless people and organizations in Fort Worth, including the Board of the Richardson Foundation for over four decades. His work in our community and our state multiplied several-fold the value of the Foundation’s philanthropy. He will long be remembered for his role in improving public education in Texas. To me and my family, he was a friend, advisor, mentor and role model. We will miss him but not forget his legacy and friendship.” An effective executive, Val guided the foundation’s board of directors in providing hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to nonprofit organizations. He earned a reputation as being a caring counselor, always available to advise nonprofit organizations on how to advance their missions.

A visionary and articulate catalyst in the field of education, he established the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Forum, a program to support innovation in Texas schools, in the late 1980s. His extensive connections enabled him to convene state and national leaders periodically to focus on key educational issues, the professional development of teachers and principals, the university reward system, turnover in Texas teachers, and the challenges of superintendents. The Richardson Foundation published the Forum’s discussions and recommendations, distributing them to state and national educational decision-makers. Wilkie was a natural leader and a gentleman. Even though his modest manner allowed his accomplishments in serving others to speak for themselves, he received many awards and honors while executive vice-president of the foundation, including the first Outstanding Service Award from the Fort Worth Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Executives (then the National Society of Fund Raising Executives); the Founders’ Spirit Award from the Conference of Southwest Foundations; the Golden Deeds Award for Education, one of the most coveted awards in the field of education, from the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development at Texas A&M University and the Texas Association of School Administrators; the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Longhorn Council, Boy Scouts of America; the Golden Deeds award as Fort Worth’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year for 2006, given by the Exchange Club of Fort Worth; and in 2010, the Mirabeau B. Lamar Award, presented by the three primary higher education associations in Texas, the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors, the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas and the Texas Association of Community Colleges.

Active in professional affairs, he served as president of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory and the Conference of Southwest Foundations. He was chairman of the U.S. Office of Education’s Advisory Committee on Accreditation and Institutional Eligibility and the Council on Foundations in Washington, D.C. He served on the board of directors of the Foundation Center and National Charities Information Bureau in New York. Wilkie retired from the foundation in 2011 and opened an office in downtown Fort Worth to continue providing invaluable counsel to nonprofit organizations. In September 2014, he moved to Sunapee, N.H., to be near his son and family. Wilkie was preceded in death by his parents, his two sisters, Sarah Wilkie and Lee Wilkie Burke, and his wife, Donna Hartwell Wilkie.

Family members said in a statement they wished to express their appreciation to the nurses and doctors who cared for Val at New London Hospital and to the caregivers at Lake Sunapee Region Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice. Survivors: He is survived by his daughters, Jan Wilkie and Sondra Wilkie, Fort Worth; son, Robert V. Wilkie, and daughter-in-law, Tanya Wilkie, Sunapee, N.H.; stepsons, Randy Simmans, Denton, Texas, and Bryan Bowden, Austin, Texas; grandson, Rob Fraser, Fort Collins, Colo.; granddaughter, Heather Wilkie Huff and husband, Darren Huff, Wilmot, N.H.; granddaughter, Meghan Wilkie and husband, William Hutchins, New London, N.H.; grandson, Rory Wilkie, Portsmouth, N.H.; great-grandchildren, Kota Fraser and Andrew, Maddie and Reese Huff, and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.  

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