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Harry T. Wilks donates $5 million to Miami

12/06/2002

Retired Hamilton attorney and businessman Harry T. Wilks, who has received national attention as the founder of Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum, is donating $5 million to establish a leadership institute at Miami University.

The gift, the second largest from a living donor in the university’s history, was announced today (Dec. 6) at Miami’s board of trustee meeting. It is Wilks’ second major contribution to Miami. In 1992, he gave $1 million to Miami Hamilton for scholarships and a lecture series that has brought in notables such as financial columnist Jane Bryant Quinn and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.

“Harry T. Wilks has been an exemplary leader throughout his professional and civic life as an attorney, a businessman, an entrepreneur, an art collector and a philanthropist. It is very fitting that Mr. Wilks’ most recent gift to Miami University is in the area of leadership. The visionary institute that will bear his name will greatly advance the university’s mission to educate the future leaders of our society,” said Miami President James C. Garland.

Whether planning a sculpture park or making a business decision, Wilks has a reputation for thinking big. And he and Miami officials agree that his multimillion dollar gift will have a major impact on the university.

“Harvard is known for its law school, Johns Hopkins for medical research. I want Miami and Oxford to be the place that people think of when leadership development is mentioned,” says Wilks.

The need for such a curriculum is becoming increasingly obvious, according to Wilks.

He is troubled by the erosion of public trust and confidence in leaders at every level, whether in government, business, religious institutions, unions or accounting and the other professions. Another trend that concerns him is the lack of role models for young people.

Decision making - be it in government, business or the classroom - should be based on “enduring principles,” he says.

His goal is for the Harry T. Wilks Leadership Institute to foster “ethical leadership” among all Miami students, not just a select few. The major components of the institute, which will be phased in starting in 2003, include:

*A speaker series that will bring to the Oxford campus individuals who have “exercised significant leadership” and which will spark universitywide conversations on leadership.

*A high school leadership program to raise awareness of Miami as the university for leadership study.

*An international scholarship program to recruit students who have shown leadership qualities in their own nations.

*Academic coursework that will be focused on the theory and practice of leadership, all aimed at preparing students for effective, ethical leadership.

*A national scholarly symposium for leadership experts and scholars that will focus on practices that best support leadership development of students and is designed to make Miami a national center for research on leadership development.

*A leadership entrepreneurial fund will allow faculty and students to test new approaches to leadership development.

*Seminars on leadership development for those who work with students outside the classroom.

“We’re entering a global era where decisions by leaders from all countries will increasingly impact us here in the United States,” says Wilks. “So it’s more important than ever that leaders - worldwide to local - be prepared for their responsibilities.”

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