‘A man who was the best, got the best from others and taught us to never settle for anything but the best’ - the late William (Bill) Wilson was such a man.
It was to Mr Wilson - Senior Teacher and Head of Mathematics at Wallace High School at the time of his death - that the Special Recognition Lifetime Achievement Award went.
In a moving tribute to Mr Wilson, Wallace principal Deborah O’Hare explained that Bill, as he was affestionately known, came to Wallace in the academic year 1974/5.
“Whilst his illness was to rob him of the fulfilment of his ambition to complete 40 years of service,” she said, “his contribution to the life of the school was without precedent and is unlikely to ever be equalled.”
The Millisle native’s influence, she said, was to touch almost every facet of the school’s life, while his reputation among both pupils and staff became “the stuff of legend”. She went on: “Wallace was more than a place of employment to Bill; it was a huge part of his life. He found his wife June there , he educated his daughters Vicky and Laura there and through his commitment to Mathematics, to sport and to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme he invested his life in the lives of countless generations of Wallace pupils . . .”
Ms O’Hare recalled Mr Wilson as a keen sportsman - helping with the racquets club and coaching rugby and cricket - and a man who for decades led the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme with distinction, for which he received the prestigious Torch Award.
“Just before his death Bill was invited to Hillsborough Castle to accept an award for long service to the scheme,” she added. “Sadly he was too ill to attend. His contribution to the Mourne Expedition Panel was valued highly and after Bill’s death he was awarded the very rare honour of a memorial plaque on a stile in the Mourne Mountains.
“The plaque reads: ‘BILL WILSON (1952-2013) - Scholar, mountaineer and gentleman, who inspired thousands of Wallace pupils to walk in the Mourne Mountains for their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award’.”
At the time of his death Bill Wilson was Head of Mathematics and Senior Teacher. “Whilst Mathematics was undoubtedly his passion,” said Ms O’Hare, “his career had a richness and variety which few possess. His first promotion had been to the role of House Master and he then became an Assistant Head of Year and subsequently a Head of Year.”
Known for a desire - underpinning his every thought and action - to do the very best for students, Mr Wilson won a national teaching award some years before his death.
He served on the Board of Governors both as a teacher representative and a parent representative and he worked tirelessly for the Parent Teacher Association.
“Bill’s passing stunned our school family,” said Ms O’Hare. “Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Bill, as ever, put the pupils first. He went off on sick leave the day the senior pupils went on study leave for their public examinations.
“Courageous and positive, he told his Year 11 class he would ‘see them in September’ as he hoped that his planned surgery would prove effective. Sadly, it did not, and Bill was never to return to school life.
“He died on the 19th of November 2013, approximately six months after his diagnosis.”
She added: “It is impossible to state the impact Bill had for good on countless generations of Wallace students.
“Always humble, he would have been embarrassed by the mere suggestion that he was the father figure of the school and a shining embodiment of its values.”