The E.S. "Woody" Wilson Scholarship was established in 1994 in memory of Mr. Eugene S. Wilson and his wife, Mrs. Bernice H. Wilson, by their son and daughter-in-law, James S. and Marilyn M. Wilson.
Woody and Bernice were north Texas natives. They moved to Davis in 1927 shortly after they married when, at the request of an old Texas friend, Woody joined the UC Davis "University Farm" staff as a football coach. He remained a loyal and dedicated member of the Athletic Department and the Davis community until his death in 1959. Bernice was a loving wife and mother. She made many sacrifices to ensure that Woody could devote whatever energy was required to accomplish his goals and her fondness for UC Davis was only exceeded by her love for her children and close family. Bernice died in 1962.
Woody was born on June 2, 1897 in Denton, Texas. His father died when he was two and his mother died after a short illness when he was seventeen leaving a younger brother and grandmother under his care. This early responsibility caused Woody to become a man very quickly. In high school he was ambitious and a very good student but because of family obligations he was forced to work and was not able to participate in competitive sports.
He told his mother before she died that he would go to a university and she made him promise to participate in some competitive sport if possible. By hard work and strong determination, Woody was able to enter Texas A&M in 1916. While going through orientation on his first day on campus he met his mentor, Dana X. Bible, who became his football coach, close friend and personal advisor. Woody never forgot the help he received as a young orphan and he always tried to help those in need during his later life.
Woody graduated from A&M in 1920 with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. During college he played guard on the football team and was elected team captain his last two seasons. After graduation he worked a short period of time as a chemist in the oil industry and taught chemistry and helped coach football at Montana State. The bitterly cold winter weather in Bozeman drove Woody back to Texas where he served as Athletic Director and chemistry instructor at Burleson College before moving to California and a life dedicated to UC Davis and its athletic programs.
During his tenure at UC Davis, Woody helped coach many sports. He coached track for 32 years and had many conference championships and individual champions. Northern California track aficionados knew Woody as "Mr. Track," primarily for the annual Picnic Day Track Meet he started in 1935. This meet brought in hundreds of high school track athletes and became one of the largest and most prestigious prep competitions in the country. After his death the meet became known as the Woody Wilson Memorial and a few years later the name was changed to the Woody Wilson Invitational; a university division was added to the meet format. In addition to coaching track, Woody was line coach of the football team for about 20 years, cross-country coach from 1949-1958 and men's basketball coach in 1929 and again in 1946.
One of Woody's goals was to get as many individuals as possible involved in some form of physical activity. In 1935 he started UC Davis intramural sports and actively coordinated this very successful program until his death. He truly enjoyed coaching and teaching young people regardless of their athletic abilities and he encouraged and expected everyone to try and do his or her best in any endeavor undertaken. In 1983, the Cal Aggie Athletic Hall of Fame inducted Woody recognizing his loyalty and dedication to UC Davis.
Both Woody and Bernice considered integrity, compassion, loyalty, dedication and commitment to be very important personal qualities. Marilyn and Jim Wilson hope that the student-athlete chosen for this award best exemplify how they want to honor the memory of Bernice and Woody Wilson.