“Well, William, if you are even half as bright as your siblings…”

It was September 1962. I was late for my first Math 120 class in Arts 100 so tried to enter the huge lecture hall without being noticed. Dean Walter Gage, who had already begun his lecture, stopped and asked me if I was lost. I was so nervous that I could not answer.

“This is Math 120, son. Are you in this class?” he asked.

“I think so,” I replied timidly.

Pulling out the class list, he asked, “name and student number?” I managed to choke out: “Wilson, William Lane, 94621621, Sir.”

“Wilson?” he queried. “Are you a Native Indian, William?”

I was one of the few Native Indians at the university at the time. My brothers and sister had gone before me, but I felt very much alone, especially standing before the famous math teacher.

“Is Reginald Wilson your brother?” he asked.

“Yes sir,” I replied, near tears.

“Then Cal and Donna must be your brother and sister, right?” the Dean asked smiling. “Well, William, if you are even half as bright as your siblings, you will be a great contribution to this class. Now find a seat and with your permission I will continue with the lecture.”

In one brief moment this great man made me feel comfortable in a totally intimidating environment. I was fortunate enough to meet with him many times later, and even be one of many to whom he would lend money to “get by.” It was a seminal moment in my life.

Bill Wilson
LLB 1973