Jon Mark Beilue: Grandfatherly Advice: Pay It Forward

Jon Mark Beilue Feb 21, 2019
  • Alumni
  • Education
  • Jon Mark Beilue
  • Business

Grandfatherly Advice: Pay It Forward

At age 29, Wilder returns scholarship help with one of his own


Kolten Wilder had heard the speech from David Wilder, his grandfather, more than once. It was an idea that David, a then-West Texas State graduate from the 1960s, who had made a career in the banking business in Plainview, had about giving back and paying it forward for college graduates.

“He challenged me early on to give back what I got out of school, to what I received in scholarships to pay it back,” Wilder said. “If you think about it, if every student who received a college scholarship of some kind was able to pay it back at some point, think about all the funds that could be distributed and how it would change higher education.”

Wilder spent the first 10 years of his life in Plainview until his father, Brian, moved to the Phoenix area for a position with Wal-Mart Distribution. Kolten was a strong student and good basketball player at Millennium High School in Goodyear, Ariz.

He could have attended any number of universities, but he was close to his grandparents in Plainview, so he took a hard look at West Texas A&M in 2008.

He visited WT a couple of months before graduation. Wanting to major in one of the fields in business, he had a conversation with the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business (PVECB) dean Dr. Neil Terry.

“My grandfather obviously was pushing me to WT,” Wilder said, “so I toured the facility and sat down with Dr. Terry and discussed a few options, and at that point, I knew WT would be my new home. 

“We had a conversation of where the PVECB was and where he saw it heading in the next 5 to 10 years, and it was obvious that it was on the verge of some very exciting things.”

Wilder headed east and never looked back. He immersed himself in student and social life. As he said, college he believed was not only a place to get a degree but also “figuring out life.” It certainly helped that he was able to receive scholarship money in four of the five years he was at WT.

“He was an outstanding student and very involved,” Terry said. “He took advantage of just about every opportunity he could. The best way to be successful is to be engaged, and Kolten was about as engaged as anyone could be.”

Wilder received his undergraduate degree in accounting and finance in 2013, and his MBA in December 2014.  The same year Wilder graduated came a game changer for him and certainly for WT. The PVECB was accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), putting WT among about 30 percent of all universities in the country to have an accredited college of business.

The impact has been dramatic. Terry said enrollment in the PVECB has more than doubled, from 1,200 to 1,300 to now in the 2,600 to 2,800 range. The online MBA program is the third-largest in the country with 70 students from California and 65 from New York enrolled.

“We don’t have that without accreditation,” Terry said.

“That accreditation put students and alumni on a level playing field with the likes of Ivy League schools,” Wilder said. “Only 10 percent of business schools worldwide have this.

“Imagine me coming from WT and putting that on my resume. Anytime I can be on the same competitive level as a person from Stanford or Yale, that’s huge for me and others, and I didn’t have to pay that kind of tuition.”

But there was the human aspect that impacted Wilder as well. Accreditation is worthy recognition, but it can be hollow if students aren’t surrounded by influencers.

“The PVECB, as well as WT, is made up of great people, whether that’s faculty, administration or donors,” he said, “and we’re fortunate in the Panhandle to have donors who are not only generous monetarily, but of their time too.”

Wilder spent three years after graduation with a third party real estate company in Dallas. But after his grandmother died in January 2016, he felt the pull of being closer to his grandfather. So in September 2017, he began a position with W. Real Estate in Amarillo, where he is vice president of commercial real estate.

Wilder, though, never forgot David Wilder’s encouragement to give back. Maybe just returning to the Panhandle area was a spark, or maybe he knew it was just time. But at age 29, Wilder is one of the youngest WT graduates to establish a scholarship at his alma mater in May 2018.

With the PVECB, named after the cattleman and his late wife in November 2017, matching any scholarships, Wilder has a $20,000 scholarship that will be awarded to an upperclassmen in the College each spring.

But his name is nowhere to be seen on it. Instead, it’s the Terry Family Leadership Scholarship, named after Neil Terry and his wife Dr. Anne Macy, an Edwards Professor of Finance.

“This is not about me,” Wilder said, “it will provide scholarships to students for years to come, but it also gave me an opportunity to recognize two individuals who mean the world to me and my career.”

The significance too is not lost on the two whose name is attached.

“Obviously, it’s very humbling and certainly emotional for my wife,” Terry said. “She was extremely honored, and it’s been one of the most impactful things to ever happen to us.

“In a bigger picture, if you look at higher education and the next generation of donors, there’s a real concern of the millennial generation, whether that be academics or churches, and their inclination to give.

“There’s a real concern if that generation can do what World War II, Baby Boomers, even Generation X, has done. But Kolten is someone who is setting the mark with that generation. If he’s any indication of philanthropy, the future is bright.”

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