Plaque dedicated to Helen L Wilson
Written by David Colbus
Senior, College of Arts and Sciences and Student Assistant, the University Archives
The other day, the University Archivist, Koichi Tasa, showed me a picture of a plaque found on the ground by the Spirit Tree. The quote says “Helen Louis Wilson, assistant to three U.M. presidents and an archivist for the Richter Library.” Mr. Tasa and my supervisor Mrs. Marcia Heath have never heard of her name before. Who is this woman, what was her role in the Archives, and why is an important symbol of the University dedicated to her? With all the research skills of a University Archives assistant, I set to find out.
First, I accessed the University Archives webpage through the library website. Using these public records including The Miami Hurricane Archive Online, the Ibis Yearbooks, the Veritas newsletter, and the Historical Photographs collection, I searched for Helen Louis Wilson. After failing to find a single mention of Helen Louis Wilson, I tried again but without her middle name and found my first hit. The Jan. 15, 1960 Miami Hurricane briefly mentions her as a secretary for Dean Dr. James M. Godard. Sadly, the remaining references to Helen Wilson in the Hurricane were in connection to her death in 1991. I did find out, however, that she worked full time from 1944 to 1952, and that she gathered information for Charlton W. Tebeau’s book University of Miami: A Golden Anniversary History, which remains an invaluable resource used in the University Archives to this day.
I found even more information on Helen Wilson and her work within the Veritas newsletter. In 1962, President Pearson thanked her for her involvement in the United Fund Campaign. In 1981, she supported search committees to replace vacancies in Administration. In 1980 and 1981, Helen Wilson posted witty historical facts about the University in a Veritas column called “Those were the days”. And in 1991, her obituary explained that Helen Wilson worked as an administrative assistant to Presidents Bowman Foster Ashe, Jay F. W Pearson, and Henry King Stanford. She retired in 1982, but continued to work part time in the Richter Library’s archives, processing and maintaining the presidential files.
*Click here to read Ms. Wilson’s column “Those were the days..” found in Veritas (February 2, 1981, page 4).
*Click here to read her obituary in Veritas (September 1991, page 10).
By sheer chance, I discovered booklets from the Spirit Tree’s dedication while pulling materials for a visitor. It memorialized Wilson, reaffirming all that I discovered in my research, and added this: “In the words of people who knew her… she wanted to do what she could do and give what she could give to future generations of the University.” I hope that my work at the Archives has done the same.
Spirit Tree and the plaque dedicated to Helen L. Wilson
Bochure of the Spirit Tree Dedication, Page 1
Bochure of the Spirit Tree Dedication, Page 2[/caption]