Upon graduation from high school in Vestal, NY, Sarah Hoadley Wilson wanted to go to college, but her father said, “It’s a waste of money to educate a girl because she’ll just get married.” This was 1951 and the Korean War had started. Sarah married Jack Wilson two years after graduation and right before he was drafted into the army. He was sent to Huntsville, AL for army missile training. Sarah joined him and their first child, a daughter, was born there. After his army service was up in 1955, they moved back to Vestal and two more children joined the family.
Sarah’s father owned two businesses, and he asked her to come to work for him. Shortly thereafter he had a heart attack, and she was asked to take over the two businesses. So much for not educating a woman! She was very successful, and her business became the largest RV dealership in the county.
After one very hard winter when water lines froze five feet under the street, Sarah and Jack decided to move to Lake Norman. This was 1978, and there were not many people living on Lake Norman. All of their children followed them to the Charlotte area. It was then that her daughters both said to her, “Mom, now is your chance to go to college.” When she read the requirements to be admitted, Sarah cried because she didn’t have a single one. UNC Charlotte was kind enough to let her enroll for a trial basis, and after two semesters of straight ‘A’s she was able to matriculate. She graduated in 1992 Summa Cum Laude with a BA in history. Her graduation gift from Jack was an endowed scholarship for a non-traditional female student. This scholarship is administered by the Office of Adult Students and Evening Services (OASES) office and because of her involvement with OASES, she realized how great the need was for more scholarships for women who had significant financial need.
Sarah is a member of PEO, Philanthropic Educational Organization, an organization whose goal is to help women complete their educations. The OASES office had many candidates who needed help; the first year that Sarah coordinated the PEO program, she secured grants for six women. After that year Sarah taught other PEO chapters in the Charlotte area how to apply for these grants, and the awards have been made to approximately 100 women! PEO offers loans at a very low interest rate as well, and some of the recipients have used PEO loans to pay for their master’s degrees. Sarah helps women from all walks of life, single mothers, women who need to re-career because of jobs going overseas, women with health problems that cause them to change careers, and many future teachers. The main criterion for assistance was need and a curriculum that would help them get work. Each recipient is given a PEO sponsor. The success stories from these women continue to be tremendous. Although Sarah retired from sponsoring these recipients at the age of 75, she has trained other PEO members to take up the reins, and the grants continue.
Jack retired from IBM the same year that Sarah graduated from UNC Charlotte. They started a business, Wilson Training Services, and worked together as a team. Their business was very successful and this allowed them to travel to many parts of the world. Both are now in their 80s, and they are still traveling. Their family has now expanded to include three grandchildren and one great-grandson.