- Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 February 2009 18:54
- Published on Wednesday, 04 February 2009 18:54
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Throughout her life, Dr. Lillian Parker Wright has always traveled along the road of academia. Now a retired professor and administrator from Norfolk State University, Dr. Wright continues to inspire everyone around her, including her constituents on the Norfolk Public Schools School Board. Her humble beginnings during the era of segregation while attending the less than favorable environment associated with the King George Training School [KGTS] did not discourage her from her professional destiny—it made her stronger.
“We knew what we had, and we made the best of what we had,” Dr. Wright said. “I felt that succeeding in education would make it possible to do better.”
Dr. Wright not only graduated with a bachelor’s degree in home economics from Virginia State University, but she was the first KGTS graduate to return to King George as an educator at her high school alma mater, whose name had changed to Ralph Bunche High School. She later received a Masters Degree from Columbia University Teachers College and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.
She was influenced to pursue a career in the field of home economics education by her high school home economics teacher, Ms. Nelson T. Higgenbotham. Higgenbotham bestowed upon her the value of personal preparation, and how it could benefit her later throughout her life. “Home economics prepared students for the world,” Dr. Wright said. “It was more than just cooking and sewing, it dealt with consumer practices that everyone needed to be efficient in. Among the life skills that prepared students for their journey through life, were food preparation, apparel selection, housing decisions and family relations.”
She and her late husband Dr. William Wright served as examples to their children, Wilhelmina [Mimi] and William II, that academics will forever be the key to their future. “Education is very important in our family, because we know what it can do for you,” Dr. Wright said. “It’s my philosophy that education is your key to freedom. If you want to be free, get your education, otherwise you will be a slave to man.”
Wilhelmina and William excelled in their chosen fields, both professionally and academically. Wilhelmina completed her undergraduate’s degree at Yale before completing Harvard Law School. Among her classmates at Harvard was the First Lady, Michelle Obama. The Governor of Minnesota later appointed her as a judge to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. She also served as a federal district judge and the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the state of Minnesota. In addition, she also worked at the prestigious law firm of Hogan & Hartson during her clerkship.
Wilhelmina’s brother William graduated from Yale before receiving his Masters from the University of Virginia. Currently he works for Morgan Stanley as a managing director, on Wall Street in New York. Most recently he was honored as being one of Yales most outstanding alumni.
Dr. Wright’s late husband, William was a well-respected member of the community of college professors. While working at Norfolk State University, he was the assistant Dean for the School of Education and the Head of the Health & Physical Education Department for thirty years.
Dr. Wright’s siblings, Garnet, Stanley, Leroy and George, and their children have all succeeded in their chosen professions.
Nowadays, Dr. Wright continues to make a positive impression in her community. Among her many accolades while serving on the Virginia School Boards Association [VSBA] and the National School Boards Association [NSBA] are as follows: 2004-2005 Delegate, VSBA General Assembly; 2005 Presenter, VSBA Annual Convention; Member, VSBA Federal Relations Committee; Member VSBA Regional Nominating Committee; Presenter, NSBA/CUBE Convention.
Her community and civic activities include: Trustee, Bank Street Memorial Baptist Church; Treasurer, Campostella Heights Civic League; Member, Virginia School Boards Association Advisory Board; Delta Sigma Theta.
After experiencing the growth of political accomplishments in the African American culture for over 70 years Dr. Wright remains cautiously optimistic when it comes to the country’s ability to embrace many cultures. “I never focused on if I would ever see an African American president; however, I felt if the right person, with the right credentials, and the right philosophy ran for President, that person would win,” Dr. Wright said. “Education can prepare you for life’s challenges; however, we live in a society than can block you from your efforts.”