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Chapter One - Generosity or Grandstanding?

“When the Wilsons learned of their town’s dilemma, they consented to part with their whole pasture. After all, they were loyal Tempeans. What this pioneer couple did, specifically, was to take $500 for the original five acres and ‘throw in’ the other fifteen as an endowment. The tradition says they gave up their life’s achievement without a shrug.” In the university archives there is a deed dated May 5, 1885, only a week inside the 60-day time limit, in which the Wilsons conveyed 15 of their 20 acres of land “for the sole and exclusive use of the Territorial Normal School forever, in consideration of the sum of five hundred dollars.” Without that courageous gift the normal school would not have been built, and Arizona State University would have died with barely a whimper. To show its appreciation, the board allowed George Wilson to pasture some of his cattle on the land for several years. But four years after the land was deeded over, Martha Wilson died and the butcher shop was sold not long thereafter. George was then hired by the Normal School as its custodian, and he worked in that capacity until his death 25 years later. As Arizona State University’s first sacrificial donor, Wilson was honored in 1956 when Arizona State College President Grady Gammage and the Arizona Board of Regents bestowed on its newest women’s residence facility the name George W. Wilson Hall. Now came a parade of community supporters of Tempe’s new teacher training institution.

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ASU Foundation for A New American University

Normal School library second floor of Old Main, 1907

Seventh Normal President Arthur John Matthews, Homecoming 1929; Matthews served ASU for approximately 30 years and 18 buildings were constructed under his presidency.

From normal school to New American University: A history of the ASU Foundation, 1885-2012  

One-hundred-twenty-eight years of philanthropy at Arizona State University is seen through the lens of the ASU Foundation. Historical photos...

From normal school to New American University: A history of the ASU Foundation, 1885-2012  

One-hundred-twenty-eight years of philanthropy at Arizona State University is seen through the lens of the ASU Foundation. Historical photos...

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