Planned Giving

The Legacy of Minnie Wilder

"The Wilder Trust is the major scholarship for the School of Economics and Business Administration at Saint Mary's College. It has helped students to complete their education and achieve their dreams. Minnie Wilder's gift allows our school to attract high-caliber students and to elevate the quality of incoming classes, which enhances the learning experience for all students—not only the ones who have received the scholarships."

—Zhan Li, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Economics and Business Administration

Minnie Wilder

Gautam Sinha, Saint Mary's College Executive MBA student and recipient of the Wilder Trust Scholarship, spring 2013

Minnie Wilder's Story
Minnie Wilder's story began like the story of many Americans who came of age during the Great Depression. Minnie was born in 1910 to Portuguese immigrants on the rural plains of Colorado; her parents were poor and struggled to feed her. So, when Minnie was 14, she was sent to California to live with relatives who quickly put Minnie to work as a seamstress in their laundry business, a trade she continued for the rest of her life. Due to her extended family's insistence that she work and work only, Minnie never finished high school.

Despite her difficult economic circumstances, her lack of formal education and her lack of familial support, Minnie was "sharp as a tack," says her lawyer and former Saint Mary's College professor Don Campbell. "She knew the importance of good business," Don explains. Upon first meeting her, he was impressed by Minnie's ability to save money and to understand that you "don't sell the cow that gives you the milk."

In addition to saving dollar by dollar from her work as a seamstress, Minnie began to invest small amounts in stocks and real estate as a young woman, determined to become independent and free from the family who treated her as little more than an extra set of hands. Her interests and investments in land around the Lamorinda area, as well as in new inventions such as the telephone, allowed Minnie to reach this goal. By the time she walked into Don Campbell's office in the early 1990s, Minnie owned and managed multiple properties and had saved a significant amount of money.

Minnie went to see Don to request help with the writing of her will, hoping he would be able to help her leave her fortune to a trustworthy cause. Don thought automatically of Saint Mary's and set up a time to take Minnie to see the campus. It was this trip to campus that would secure Minnie's intentions and lead to the establishment of the Wilder Trust.

An Act of Kindness
How does one campus visit turn into a million dollar gift? The answer is surprisingly simple: On her trip, Minnie met a group of considerate and enthusiastic Saint Mary's students.

"They thought we were lost," Don Campbell recalls with a laugh. "They asked us if we needed help, and we told them we were just looking around. They said back to us, 'well, let us show you!'"

The group of students led Don and Minnie around the campus, proudly and patiently showing them the Chapel and Ferroggiaro Quad and Oliver Hall. At the end of their impromptu tour, Minnie turned to Don and said, "Those are the kind of people who I want to give the money to."

And that was that.

Since leaving her gift to Saint Mary's in 1995, Minnie's Wilder Trust Scholarship has granted more than 125 $10,000 merit-based scholarships to Gaels in the School of Economics and Business Administration who demonstrate academic excellence, ambition and great potential.

Now 17 years after her death, Minnie's trust is almost depleted, but continues to live on through the robust careers of the students her scholarships have served.

"It was a beautiful day," Don recalls, looking back on his visit to campus with Minnie and remembering the students who showed them around. "They were kind to her," he states, suddenly making the connection between Minnie's difficult and often cold experience of the world and her desire to give back to Saint Mary's students.

"One act of kindness," Don reminds us. "That's all it took."

Establish Your Legacy
Help us to replenish and continue Minnie's legacy by establishing a legacy of your own. Let us know about your intention to include Saint Mary's College in your estate plans, and we promise that your act of kindness will not go unnoticed. For help in including Saint Mary's College in your will or other estate plans, contact Douglas D. Hansen at (925) 631-4218 or ddh3@stmarys-ca.edu today.