May 13, 2010
For the most poverty-stricken regions of Appalachia, international travel is no more than a pipe dream. That notion may soon change at Ohio University, thanks to a recent gift to the Global Leadership Center.
The $25,000 gift by Stephen Wing was made in memory of his wife – Ohio University alumna and nationally respected social worker Elinda Wing, who passed away in June 2009 from sarcoma cancer.
The Wing Appalachian Global Leadership Center Grant will provide financial assistance for travel abroad to students pursuing international projects through the GLC certificate program. The endowment will fund need-based scholarships to students from the Appalachian region.
“We want to make a big impact,” said Wing, “and we’re committed to this not only financially but through our expertise, and whatever else we can give.”
The GLC, a two-year certificate program which provides international consulting experience to OHIO undergraduates, benefited two members of the Wing family during their academic careers at Ohio University.
Nick Wing, a telecommunications major, graduated in 2004 following GLC residency in Thailand and Mexico. Emily (Wing) Williams last traveled to Thailand and the Czech Republic with GLC as an undergraduate, and went on to serve the program as a teaching assistant in the 2004-05 academic year, while pursuing a master’s in communications studies.
“It is a life-changing experience,” said Nick, “No matter what the situation, the skills that I’ve learned in the GLC have prepared me to solve very difficult problems in life and professionally.”
“I have a whole new way of looking at relationships with people and working,” added Emily.
Although Elinda’s 1972 degree predates the GLC, which was founded in 1998, she embraced the program for the opportunities it afforded her children – opportunities that she likely never fathomed as an impoverished Appalachian youth.
Born in Whitesburg, Ky., and raised in Logan, Ohio, Elinda overcame many challenges on her way to an Ohio University degree, including poverty, the death of her mother and her father not being able to care for the family.
But the extent of those struggles was never known to her children; they knew only of their mother’s dignity.
“My mother was always very proud of her Appalachian heritage and wanted us to be proud of it,” said Nick.
When Elinda passed away at age 59, the family determined that providing aid to disadvantaged students from the Appalachian region was a fitting memorial. And because of the family’s connection to the GLC, Stephen Wing decided to channel the gift through this program.
Wing, who serves as director of Workforce Initiatives for CVS Caremark, was recently appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama to the President’s Economic Stimulus Advisory Committee on Jobs. Wing said there was consensus at the committee’s first meeting that companies want to hire, but that many candidates do not possess the desired skill sets.
“The skills that are missing are the skills that (students) are learning at the GLC… how to work with others, how to get things done in a timely manner, how to communicate and all those kinds of things,” said Wing. “All the skills that they are learning in this program are skills that companies are desperately looking for.”
Wing’s affinity for the GLC program is so strong that he is challenging his children – Emily, Nick and Thaddeus – to grow the endowment over time through their own contributions. In addition, Wing also made a $1,000 cash gift to the GLC, to be used at the program’s discretion.
For GLC Director Greg Emery, the gifts strike a personal chord.
“I was once the kind of student that this gift is intended to benefit,” Emery said. “Even if I had had international aspirations, I did not have the financial resources to follow through with it.”
Emery said he hopes to publicize the scholarship among regional high school students, who might not ordinarily consider certification through the GLC due to financial constraints.
Providing opportunities to those in need was a hallmark of Elinda’s life, personally and professionally. This gift, according to Wing, is inspired by her giving spirit and propensity toward making a difference in the lives of others.