Epitome of Public Service

Yvonne S. Wilson will join Starr Women’s Hall of Fame

Senator Yvonne S. Wilson, an educator in heart and profession, has been an inspiration to young women to move forward in community and public service.

Wilson spent her professional career in the Kansas City, Missouri Public School District as a teacher, principal, consultant, director of elementary education and assistant to the superintendent. She is one of nine exceptional women from the metropolitan Kansas City area included in the second class of honorees to be recognized in the new Starr Women’s Hall of Fame. Stories of other inductees can be found online. The new class will be inducted at a luncheon celebration on March 22.

The hall was created to honor women who have made Kansas City a better place, said Debby Ballard, co-chair of the hall of fame planning committee. Wilson, like the other eight women in the hall class of 2017, has clearly done so.

“I cannot say enough great things about her,” said Senator Shalonn “Kiki” Curls, 9th District, Kansas City. “She has always been a supporter of women, especially young women who are willing to challenge themselves to reach new heights. She is a woman of grace and encouragement; and expects hard-work and excellence.”

Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Sylvester “Sly” James also had glowing remarks.

“Senator Wilson is, and has always been, a respected member of the Kansas City community whose advice and perspective I deeply treasure. Her career is the epitome of public service. Few people can tout the breadth of experience she can. If young women in this community aim to reach the heights of Senator Wilson, then we will be in great hands for the future.”

Wilson became interested in teaching children at a young age.

“I still have a copy of an essay that I wrote as a sophomore in high school. I said in that essay that I wanted to teach grades two through six. I had no idea that I could ever become a principal or superintendent. I always just wanted to teach.”

Early in her teaching career, administrators noticed Wilson’s talent and ability to reach students who presented discipline challenges in the classroom. Her then-principal became her mentor.

“My principal talked with me about a federally-funded program between the National Institutes of Health and the school district,” Wilson said. “It was intended to provide specially designed programs and classrooms to serve at-risk students. She asked me if I would participate in that program as a teacher and consultant. That was the first step of my movement out of the classroom to become a teacher consultant.”

Wilson went on to become the first African American principal of Rockhill Elementary. Her involvement in the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals also grew. Ultimately, she became the first African American to serve as the association’s president.

Wilson’s awards and achievements are many. In addition to her work with the Missouri Association of Elementary School principals, she was a candidate for the position of National President Elect of the 23,000 membership of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. She was cited in the Outstanding Educators in America: A Look at Who’s Who in American Education in the 70s, was appointed to the Lincoln University Board of Curators from 1991 through1999 and served two terms as president of the board.

After retiring from education, Wilson became active in public service. Her first elected position was as a committeewoman. She has held leadership position in major community development projects such as the fundraising for the construction and maintenance of the Spirit of Freedom Fountain and the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center and Museum. She is a member of several community organizations, such as City of Fountains Board of Directors; Kansas City Sister Cities Association; Black Healthcare Coalition; Mid-America Regional Council’s Metropolitan Council on Early Learning board; Kansas City Early Childhood Education Committee; Swope Community Builders Board of Directors; Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Links Inc.; Greater Kansas City Chapter, Lincoln University Alumni Association; Greater Kansas City Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.; Sheraton Estates Neighborhood Association and the St. Louis Catholic Church. She has delivered keynote addresses at local high school, college graduations, the Kauffman Scholars Ambassadors induction ceremony and many other events.

“Wilson’s educational leadership was undisputed and continued through her retirement and beyond,” said retired educator Marjorie Williams in her nomination of Wilson. “Today, Wilson is still fully engaged in her community. She continues her involvement in local and statewide political organizations.”

Wilson’s years of service have earned her numerous local, state and national awards and recognitions. Among them are: UMKC Spotlight Awardee in 2012; three-time recipient of the Kansas City Globe’s 100 most influential African Americans Award in Education and Community Service; the Missouri Parks and Recreation Association Public Official Achievement Award; the Friends of the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center and Museum’s Living Legacy Award; Outstanding Service and Leadership Award from UMKC; Lincoln University’s Distinguished Alumni Award; the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Pioneer in Education Award; the Heart of America Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Award for Outstanding Work in the Community; Lincoln University Founders Day Luncheon honoree; the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, Kansas City Chapter Award; and the Metro Organization for Race and Economic Equality’s (MORE2) Equity Partner of the Year.

Wilson attended Lincoln High School in Kansas City, Missouri; Lincoln University of Missouri; and UMKC.

The Starr Women’s Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing extraordinary Kansas City women and preserving the history of their accomplishments. These women are social reformers, volunteers, philanthropists, civic leaders, activists and educators. They are neighborhood leaders and grassroots organizers, from yesterday and today, both famous and unsung. They are movers and shakers whose tireless commitment to community has made Kansas City a better place to live. The hall of fame is a repository for their legacies. By sharing their stories, the hall of fame encourages and inspires women everywhere.

A permanent display honoring Starr Women’s Hall of Fame members is now open to the public on the third floor of the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The display currently includes memorabilia and information about the contributions of the inaugural class of inductees. The library is at 800 E. 51st St., Kansas City, Missouri.

The hall of fame is named in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, a legendary activist and philanthropist who blazed a trail for family issues and women’s rights. The hall of fame is made possible through the Starr Education Committee, Martha Jane Starr’s family and the Starr Field of Interest Fund, which was established upon her death through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The idea for the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame stemmed from Starr Education Committee members.

The civic organizations that advocate on behalf of women and family issues and have signed on in support of the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame include: American Association of University Women; American Business Women’s Association; Central Exchange; CBIZ Women’s Advantage; Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri; Greater Kansas City Chamber’s Executive Women’s Leadership Council; Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus; Jackson County Missouri Chapter of the Links, Inc.; Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri; KC Metro Latinas; Kansas City Athenaeum; Kansas City Young Matrons; National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators; OneKC for Women; SkillBuilders Fund; Soroptimist International of Kansas City; Soroptimist Kansas City Foundation; UMKC; UMKC Women’s Center; UMKC Women’s Council; UMKC Women of Color Leadership Conference; WIN for KC; win|win; Women’s Foundation; Women’s Public Service Network; Zonta International District 7; and Zonta Club of KC II.

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