June 4, 2013
Left: Professor Laura Wilson with Dean Jane Clark and the Governor's Citation
recognizing her service to the people of Maryland.

Right: Laura Wilson at the SPH 2012 commencement ceremony. 

Dr. Laura B. Wilson, professor and chair of the Department of Health Services Administration, director of the University of Maryland Center on Aging, and associate dean for graduate academic affairs in the School of Public Health is retiring after 26 years of service to the university. She will remain on the faculty of Health Services Administration (as professor emerita) and continue to lead the Legacy Corps for Health and Independent Living project, which is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service (a federal agency) to provide caregiver support services to veteran and military families at 17 sites in 11 states. 

Wilson previously served as SPH associate dean for external affairs (2003-2005) and SPH associate dean for research and development (1989-1996), as well as chair of the Department of Public and Community Health (now Behavioral and Community Health), before becoming the founding chair of the Department of Health Services Administration.

“She was an innovator from the beginning,” said former SPH Dean Bob Gold (now chair of Epidemiology and Biostatistics), who was on the search committee that brought Wilson to the school. “She was forward-thinking, had a broad vision, and could actually translate vision into reality.” 

One of Wilson’s visions was to develop the first accredited Master of Public Health program in Community Health Education. The MPH program, established in 1999 under the College of Health and Human Performance, laid the groundwork for the creation (in 2007) and accreditation (2010) of the School of Public Health, Gold said.

Wilson was also instrumental in turning the Center on Aging (established in 1974) into a university-wide research center dedicated to serving a broad community. The Center on Aging focuses on various issues that affect those over 50, including insurance coverage for long-term care, challenges facing older women, accessibility and quality of healthcare services and the needs of elderly with lifelong disabilities. As part of the Center on Aging, Wilson created several successful initiatives including the Legacy Corps for Health and Independent Living (launched in 2001 to provide in-home respite care to frail elders, it now focuses on providing caregiver support services to veteran and military families) and the Legacy Leadership Institute on Public Policy (a program which trains Maryland residents age 50+ to work as volunteer service leaders in the government and nonprofit sectors).

Wes Queen, with the Department of Health Services Administration, met Wilson in 2001 when he became a member of the first class of the Legacy Leadership Institute on Public Policy, he said. Queen currently serves as the coordinator for this institute.

“I will miss [Dr. Wilson’s] commitment to the Center on Aging and issues affecting older Americans,” he said. 

Dr. Laura B. Wilson
Dr. Wilson addresses her colleagues
at the 2013 SPH assembly. 

Wilson has helped implement Legacy Leadership Institutes in the Netherlands and Germany and said elements of the model are used in Slovenia, Italy, Finland and Switzerland.

“Her leadership has been phenomenal,” said SPH Dean Jane Clark. “It’s impossible to count the ways in which she contributed to the school.”

In May, the school announced the creation of the Laura B. Wilson Leadership Award to honor and perpetuate her legacy. The award will be given annually to a School of Public Health faculty member who exemplifies elements of Dr. Wilson’s outstanding attributes and has demonstrated strong promise for a career dedicated to excellence and innovation through leadership.

“The school is very pleased to be able to have an award that honors [Dr. Wilson’s] commitment to the school,” Clark said. “It’s a very fitting tribute.” 

In addition, Dr. Wilson was presented with a citation from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recognizing her 26 years of dedicated and outstanding service to the people of Maryland, including her contributions as founder of the Legacy Leadership Institute on Public Policy Program. Faculty and staff from the School of Public Health also donated funds to add a “foundation stone” in Dr. Wilson’s honor which will sit at the root of the school’s  “giving tree.” The stone’s inscription will read: “With gratitude to Laura B. Wilson, Ph.D., whose leadership and public health passion was a major force in building the School of Public Health.”

Dr. Wilson received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author or co-author of over 70 scholarly articles and over 15 books or book chapters. She chaired the Governor’s Task Force of Baby Boomer Employment and Civic Engagement and served on committees for various organizations including the American Society on Aging, the National Council on Aging, the Gerontological Society of America and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Dr. Wilson is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including two postdoctoral fellowships with the National Institute of Mental Health. She is currently the principal investigator of a $5.7 million project funded by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service to support military family caregivers.  

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