An Enduring Public Service Legacy

UMKC remembers alumna and advocate Yvonne Wilson
Yvonne Wilson Starr Women's Hall of Fame Inductee

The University of Missouri-Kansas City is celebrating the life of former Missouri State Senator Yvonne Wilson (1929-2019) for her commitment and devotion to education, the university and the Kansas City community.  

Yvonne Wilson (MA ’71, EDSP ’76) worked in the Kansas City, Missouri School District for 35 years as a teacher, principal and director of elementary education. In an interview with the UMKC School of Education she recounted always wanting to be a teacher.

“I started teaching neighborhood children on my grandmother’s steps,” she said of the house in her segregated Leeds neighborhood. “I’ve never been anything other than a teacher.”

Wilson attended Lincoln University and UMKC. She was an advisor to the UMKC School of Education and served on the advisory board for the Institute for Urban Education. The Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals recognized Wilson as a “Pioneer in Education” in 2007.

Wilson began her career during desegregation and was the first African American principal of Rockhill Elementary and the first African American to serve as president of the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals. As a principal at Woodland School, she introduced Samuel Rodgers dental care to each classroom and ensured each child received care. 

An advocate of early education throughout the district, she advocated for pre-school programs and was a proponent of Head Start.

A Starr Women’s Hall of Fame inductee in 2017, retired educator and Wilson’s nominator Marjorie Williams lauded the breadth of Wilson’s influence.

“Wilson’s educational leadership was undisputed and continued though her retirement and beyond.”

While Wilson was a teacher at heart, her community influence and broad career in education and public service exemplify her dedication to enriching the city through strong neighborhoods and schools. After retiring from education, she became a community activist, serving as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives and the Missouri Senate. As a tireless advocate for education, she was known for working across party lines. 

Beyond her political commitments, Wilson volunteered for many community organizations including the Kansas City of Fountains Foundation, the Mid-America Regional Council Early Learning Board and the Kansas City Sister Cities Association. 

Wilson led her classrooms, her schools and her community with a quiet courage and endless energy.  She focused on understanding others’ views and developing relationships to further the success of individual children and broad constituencies. Her legacy will be a timeless reminder of the possibility of a steadfast commitment to a love of learning.

Wilson's services are scheduled for Friday, October 25, 2019. Details are available through Watkins Heritage Chapel

Published: Oct 15, 2019

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