John P. Wilson (Class of 1900), a prominent Williams Trustee, was born on October 7, 1877. His father was a renowned lawyer who was offered, but declined, appointment to the Supreme Court by President William McKinley.
Following his education at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, Wilson attended Williams College from 1896 to 1900. During this time he was a member of Alpha Delta Phi and Gargoyle, the business manager of Cap and Bells, and served on the Weston Field Committee.
After graduation from Williams, Wilson earned his LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1903. Following the profession of his father, Wilson eventually became senior partner in the firm of Wilson and McIlvaine, Chicago, and was known as an authority on trusts and real estate law. He served as director of General Electric Co., United States Trust Co., and Harris Trust and Savings Bank, Chicago.
Wilson’s service to Williams continued after graduation. He served as a trustee from 1935 to 1952 and as trustee emeritus from 1952 until his death. While on the Board, he served on the executive and finance committees, and took an active role in Board issues, working to set a retirement limit for trustees. Wilson also helped to establish the Class of 1900 fund, increase the endowment of the College, and joined two other Williams alumni (Clark Williams, Class of 1892, and Quincy Bert, Class of 1901) in donating a building for squash courts. The conference room on the second floor of the Greylock Quadrangle’s dining hall is named for John P. Wilson. Wilson received an honorary LL.D. from Williams in 1953.
Wilson was honored by Northwestern University as “one of the citizens of the Northwest Territory selected for their services in our time.” In addition to serving as a Williams trustee, Wilson was also a trustee of the University of Chicago, the Chicago Natural History Museum, and the Newberry Library. He also acted as director of the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago for 25 years and was elected Citizen Fellow of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago in 1953.
By Jaime Margalotti (Williams Class of 2000)
John P. Wilson biographical file. Williams College Alumni Office Records. Williams College Archives.