Marilyn Wilson (then Marilyn Laduca) joined Buffalo State as a bright-eyed art education student in the late 1960s. She not only found a home at the college, but also a pathway to a life filled with art, inspiration, and love.
“Everything I am is because of my time at Buffalo State,” said the retired educator exuberantly. “It made my whole life what it is.”
Soon after graduating in 1971, Wilson landed a “dream job” teaching art to elementary school children in the Buffalo Public Schools. She later earned a master’s degree from Buffalo State in multicultural art history and taught part time in the Art Education Department.
Meanwhile, a friendship with associate professor of design Robert Wilson blossomed into a romance. The pair married in 1976 and lived on Grand Island until Robert’s death in 1996. They have one daughter, Andrea, who is following in her parents’ artistic footsteps studying illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Their home is brimming with artwork from all three Wilsons, primarily Robert.
“I learned so much from Bob,” Wilson said. “His knowledge awakened my understanding of how to communicate ideas and emotions through the elements of art.”
Wilson has generously shared Robert’s art with institutions throughout the country that were meaningful to him—from the public library in Sullivan, Indiana, where he spent his boyhood to Buffalo State where he taught from 1963 to 1986.
As part of Transforming Lives: A Campaign for Buffalo State, Wilson is bestowing two more paintings to the college, along with a $60,000 gift to be used primarily for student scholarships.
“The gift was a promise to Bob. He created such an immense body of work,” she said.
More than 36 Robert Wilson paintings already grace various spots on campus. They range from vivid landscapes to bold abstracts.
At least one of the donated paintings, End of Semester, an acrylic featuring a student quad covered in snow, and Cosmic Grip, an abstract work based on the artist’s sabbatical studies in India, will hang in Upton Hall’s newly named Robert C. and Marilyn Wilson Advanced Painting Studio. The college will formally name the studio during a ceremony in the fall.
Wilson is excited about having a dedicated space for her husband’s art and “to be able to interact with a space in the school.”
As for the scholarship fund, Wilson said she wants to help students dear to her heart. After retiring in 2004 from Lafayette High School where she taught for 20 years, Wilson was asked to teach in the Art Education Department.
“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to mentor Buffalo State art students,” she said. “It was the epitome of my teaching career. I loved working with students at that level because they inspired me.”
That inspiration is evident throughout Wilson’s art-infused home. Since retirement, she has embarked on her own projects and is particularly proud of a series of elaborate jewelry pins that correlate with the tragedy behind the glamour of beautiful iconic women.
Giving back to Buffalo State, Wilson said, “makes my professional life complete—to be able to honor my husband’s legacy and the family tradition of service through art education.”