Kay was not only a remarkable leader of Psi Chi, but also was recognized as an outstanding executive by the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS), whose membership includes 70 general and specialized college honor societies. Kay served as Psi Chi's representative beginning in 1991, when she became the Executive Officer of Psi Chi. During her membership term on the ACHS Council, she served on the Executive Committee as Member-at-Large, representing the specialized honor societies, and as chair of the Awards and Recognition Committee and of the Long-Range Planning and Strategic Issues Committees. She was also a member of the Fundraising Committee and was a leader of roundtable discussions at each meeting for the past several years. In 2001, she was elected as President-Elect, and had recently assumed her position as President at the February 2003 ACHS meeting.
John W. Warren
James D. Froula
William C. Johnson
Vicki C. Klutts
Dorothy I. Mitstifer
Richard B. Pilgrim
Michael P. Wolfe
Dr. John W. Warren: Kay: An Honors Role Model
President, Association of College Honor Societies, 2001-2003
I well remember Kay's first attendance at an ACHS annual conference--February of 1991, Dallas, Texas. During that meeting, I was asked at the last minute to do the segment of the program on ethics, and I wasn't overly confident about my presentation. But what better way to allay one's anxieties than to have a vibrant and articulate lady emerge immediately from the audience and be the first one to compliment the discussion. That lady was Kay Wilson. I later came to know Kay more personally when she was first elected to the ACHS Executive Committee. After an Executive Committee meeting at the Phi Beta Kappa headquarters in D.C., I had the privilege of a long walk with Kay in a small shopping area nearby. I came away from that conversation with a sense of Kay's strong spiritual values, love of family, excitement about her job, and her zest for life.
At each successive ACHS annual meeting, I saw Kay capture the attention of the ACHS membership with her intelligence, her energy, her readiness to express her thoughts on tough issues, her willingness to listen, and always an ability to help calm a controversial debate. Indeed, she holds center stage as a role model for leaders of honor societies.
ACHS will miss an effective leader who possessed a remarkable perception and vision as to the realistic role, challenges, and the future direction of the Association.
A beautiful and enriching personality is etched in our memories!
James D. Froula, P.E.
Executive Director, Secretary-Treasurer, and Editor, Tau Beta Pi
The Engineering Honor Society
Through my work as ACHS president and Tau Beta Pi Executive Director, I had many opportunities to work with Kay for several years on issues related to honor societies--and I enjoyed every single one. It was a special pleasure to see Kay installed as ACHS president in Savannah, Georgia, last February.
What I really enjoyed about Kay was her occasional phone call to me to discuss various issues regarding the effective management of honor societies. She had interesting questions, and we worked to solve common problems that affected both Psi Chi and Tau Beta Pi. Kay was great!
William C. Johnson, PhD
Executive Director, Sigma Tau Delta
The International English Honor Society
A recent issue of Eye on Psi Chi announced the death of Kay Wilson, and listed an astounding number of professional contributions she made before and during her term as Executive Officer of Psi Chi. Few others would be able to begin to match that list. Yet members of the honor society community privileged to know Kay--and "privileged" is truly the right word--had both the benefit of her extensive professional experience and the blessing of her warm wit and contagious zest for life.
During the many years I knew Kay, one incident stands out--not because it was unique but because it was so typical of the way she approached so many things. During a meeting of the Association of College Honor Societies, and after a particularly lively Cajun lunch in New Orleans, Kay and I took off for a short stroll in the French Quarter. Hardly able to move far or fast because of the abundance of food we had just consumed, Kay and I spotted the famous Cafe du Monde. "Oh my," she said, in that rich, southern accent that delighted everyone who heard her, no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon line they came from, "we HAVE to have a beignet." (This, despite her wearing a beautiful, even elegant, new outfit.) And so we bought our beignets and chicory coffee, sat carefully on a bench, and even more carefully tried to eat our treats. But the slight breeze that came up blew powdered sugar all over her deep blue jacket.
"Oh my," came her rich, laughing response. And, not thinking ahead of the consequences, she started wiping away the sugar--only to smear it in great white streaks all over the jacket. And yet another "Oh my!"--this time laughed even louder than before as she attempted to take off the jacket. But with a beignet in one hand, and attempting to pull her other hand through the sleeve, she got so tangled that she got stuck. "Oh my, oh my!" We both laughed so hard we started coughing--inhaling and exhaling powdered sugar the whole time.
And that's how Kay approached so many things--with a hearty, southern-accented "Oh my," and an equally hearty laugh at those foolish attempts we all make to maintain decorum even as we try to recapture the playful child within.
We certainly will miss her, and I certainly will long remember that beautiful person, that great sense of humor, that amazing handle on so many things and . . .
Oh, Kay. We will miss her mightily. "Oh my!"
Vicki C. Klutts
Associate Executive Director, Beta Gamma Sigma
Business and Management Honor Society
It was a pleasure to have worked with and known Kay through our mutual ACHS involvement. She was a wonderful lady who always made me feel valued. Her enthusiasm for honor societies was contagious, and she was just fun to be around.
I will certainly miss her, but I know that you each will experience that to a much greater extent. Please treasure your memories of her. She was so very special.
Administrator, Pi Sigma Alpha
National Political Science Honor Society
I met Kay eight years ago, at my first ACHS meeting, and was immediately drawn to her. She became my professional role model and a great friend. I looked forward to seeing her and talking to her more than any other colleague at the annual ACHS conferences, and I am very, very sad that she will no longer be in our world. I miss her very much.
Dorothy I. Mitstifer, PhD
Executive Director, Kappa Omicron Nu
Family and Consumer Sciences Honor Society
Executive Director, Association of College Honor Societies
My memory of Kay has to do with her interest in helping the Psi Chi National Council explore the future of Psi Chi through strategic thinking and visioning. On two occasions I was employed as a consultant to work with the Council to explore its mission and new initiatives to enhance Psi Chi's contribution to members, role within the psychology field, and strength as an organization. Each time I saw evidence of follow-through. Under Kay's leadership, Psi Chi expanded the organizational structure, the benefits to members, the publications, and the awards program. Because of my longevity as secretary-treasurer and now executive director of ACHS, I can testify to Kay's remarkable leadership and the increased sophistication of Psi Chi among honor societies.
As a fellow grandmother, we delighted in telling grandchildren stories. Thus, for me, she was much more than a fellow association executive.
Richard B. Pilgrim, PhD
President of the Board, Theta Alpha Kappa
National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology
Vice President of the Board, Association of College Honor Societies
I had known Kay over my ACHS years from something of a distance since we had no particular opportunity to rub shoulders in our work there. Even then, however, she stood out as a person of intelligence, thoughtfulness, and integrity from whom one could always hear a useful and encouraging word, and feel a certain lightness-of-being within the sometimes heaviness of the proceedings at Council meetings. More recently as a co-member of the Board, however, I had gotten to know her much better, and thereby only had confirmed for me the impressions shaped from a distance. Indeed, and in quick fashion, she--in her leadership position--made me feel immediately welcome and included intimately in the discussions. More to the point, she was salt-of-the-earth whose positive spirit permeated the atmosphere and brought savor to all our deliberations. "Work" suddenly had play attached, and yet things happened that were supposed to. It was my (our) privilege and honor to have known her.
Executive Director, Mortar Board
National College Senior Honor Society
Kay was fun, friendly, and a good decision-maker. I enjoyed knowing her and working with her for over 10 years and learned so much from her. Listening and asking important questions were two of her best skills.
In the first year she was working with Psi Chi, she came to visit the Mortar Board National Office. Since we were both Mortar Board members from almost the same year, we had such fun comparing experiences and looking in the archives for old photos. I was honored to think she was interested in our national operations, and we shared similar concerns and visions for the future.
Over the ensuing 10 years, we both increased the size of our offices and added additional staff. We often talked on the phone about an idea, a possible vendor, or a board challenge. I always came away with a smile and something to try that Kay had suggested. So many times she would come up to me in her soft-spoken way and ask "what do you think about . . . ?" She knew when to act and when to wait. I always felt that she had done her homework well before launching any discussion and had a clear sense of focus. There were always reality checks along the way, and I was especially interested in the Psi Chi study of distance learning and how an honor society could function in a virtual world. She valued traditions but was very forward in all her thinking.
I particularly remember going to dinner with Kay and a few others at ACHS in New Orleans. We ate things that we had no idea of their origins--laughed and enjoyed the company so very much. I feel privileged to have known Kay and feel she set high standards for all to follow in her path. We have all been enriched by having our lives touched by her.
Carol Tracy: "Kay's First Lobster"
Executive Director, Psi Beta
The National Honor Society in Psychology for Community and Junior Colleges
I've known Kay Wilson for a very long time. She always seemed to relish challenges and new experiences. Some years ago (before her Psi Chi days), Kay was a guest when my husband Ferber and I served whole lobster to our Dinner Club. It was Kay's first Maine lobster! Ferb showed her how to use the shell crackers and lobster fork to extract the sweet lobster meat, then dip it in lime butter. Kay thoroughly enjoyed the endeavor and tackled it with enthusiasm. Eventually, our other guests, having long finished their dinners, left the table to sit by the fire in the living room while Kay focused on the lobster. She broke apart the lobster body and sucked the juices and meat from the legs. Finally, she consumed her whole lobster plus the remains of all the other lobsters, except for the shells. Of course, it was time to go home by then, but Kay was proud that she had excelled at eating lobster.
When I worked with Kay at Psi Chi, I noticed the same determination and excitement when she had a new task to undertake. She was always thorough and committed to staying with the task until it was completed to her satisfaction.
Michael P. Wolfe
Executive Director, Kappa Delta Pi
International Honor Society in Education
President, Association of College Honor Societies, 1998-2000
Kay Wilson was a wonderful friend and colleague in the Association of College Honor Societies. I met Kay when she first became the Executive Officer of Psi Chi. In fact, we spent many hours discussing ways to improve the mission and operation of our respective honor societies. I was very proud of the numerous ways she built the resources and reputation of Psi Chi. She leaves a great legacy--1991-2003.
Most importantly, she was a great support system for the honor community. She undertook the importance of building value for members and seeking ways to enhance one's membership in Psi Chi. I enjoyed her upbeat attitude, and the memories I take from our relationship will last forever. We worked hard and found multiple ways to laugh and celebrate life. Her memory is etched in my work and the work of ACHS.
Glenda Earwood-Smith, PhD: "A Eulogy for Kay Wilson"
Executive Director, Alpha Lambda Delta
National Freshman Academic Honor Society
[The following eulogy was delivered by Dr. Earwood-Smith at the Memorial Service for Kay Wilson, held on June 9, 2003, at the First-Centenary United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee.]
Wow. I can tell this is going to be more difficult than I imagined. I am deeply honored to be given the opportunity to speak at this celebration. Many of you have known Kay longer and better than I have. I've known Kay for the past six years as we interacted as colleagues in the Association of College Honor Societies, the umbrella organization for legitimate honor societies like Psi Chi. Kay had just finished a two-year term as Vice President/President-Elect and national program chair. All of the ACHS members societies express their deep regret and great sense of loss over losing this dynamic, caring, gracious leader. Several ACHS members wrote over the last few weeks and spoke of Kay with great fondness, calling her a professional role model, a person with a magnetic leadership style, a great cheerleader, a gracious Southern lady, a steel magnolia.
I think I know why Kay asked Joe to ask me to speak to you today. It's to tell a story with the hope being that in that story you will find courage, peace, and hope to go on--despite the loss of our dear friend, wife, mother, and grandmother. Before Joe even asked me to speak at Kay's memorial, God gave the theme for this talk: Understanding God's plan can wait, but following God's will cannot! Let me explain.
I interacted with Kay in mid-February in Savannah at the ACHS meeting, and we talked about moving her mother into an assisted living center. A week later, we got the wonderfully written e-mail message from Kay with the terribly depressing news of the cancer that took her life. I can remember feeling like I had been hit by a ton of bricks and with the helpless useless feeling of wanting to do something and not knowing what to do.
During that night, it came to me that back in 1999, I took Kay's place at an ACHS meeting in San Diego. I then wrote Kay a letter on March 6, only three short months before Kay died. I think that Kay would want me to share part of that letter:
I thought a long time about what I could say to you, and this morning it came to me to share part of the speech that I gave in your place at the ACHS meeting in San Diego. You may remember that Sagabiel or Wolfe had planned a presentation by four men on "character." I was appalled at the thought of listening to four men talk about character at the same time President Clinton was exhibiting such poor character in the White House (Monica Lewinsky news). I suggested that they contact you and include a woman's voice on the panel. At the time you had hurt your shoulder and were unable to travel across the country. Sooo . . . two weeks before the meeting, Mike Wolfe called to ask me to be on the panel. Since I had stuck my big foot out there, how could I say no?
In December of 1996, another one of my friends and professional colleagues, Meg Sutton, was diagnosed with lyomyosarcoma, an extremely rare but very aggressive cancer, which is usually fatal within six months of diagnosis. At the time of her diagnosis, Meg had six tumors in her liver, three tumors on her kidneys, and sixteen tumors in her lungs. She began a series of extensive chemotherapy treatments because Meg was a fighter. Meg is a long-distance runner; in fact, when Meg was eight months pregnant, I ran a 5K with her and was proud to finish close to her!
In April of 1997, the doctors told Meg that they had given her all the chemo they could and that basically there was nothing else they could do. Well, Meg, being the fighter that she was, told the doctors she wasn't ready to die and that she wanted to look for medical help from the best experts in the country. Her doctors in Salt Lake City sent Meg to the nation's specialists in Los Angeles. There the doctors told Meg that some part of the chemo was working and that IF they found out which chemo was working, Meg could continue that part of the therapy, and if there were any reduction in the tumors, they would perform two operations: one on her kidneys and her liver, and if she survived that and the chemo was still working, they would operate on her lungs. Amazingly, Meg had both operations and survived.
Later, Meg discovered that she had a brain tumor and underwent a third major operation. After the operation, Meg could not jump, walk, or even talk, but Meg, being the fighter that she was, underwent physical and speech therapy and learned to talk again, walk, jump, and even run. She went back to work and even went snow skiing.
Now my point here is that Meg was a person of character. How did she get to be that way? How can we involved in honor societies inspire our members and others to live lives of persistence and integrity? How can we help engrave the values that will help them overcome the obstacles they will face in life ahead?
The speeches from the panel were posted on the ACHS Internet site. The rest of the story is equally inspirational.
In December of 1999, after ACHS met in San Diego that February, a woman called me at the Alpha Lambda Delta office in Macon. She said that her sister, Rose, had been diagnosed with lyomyosarcoma and that she had done an Internet search and found my speech. She wanted to know if Meg Sutton was still alive and if anything had helped Meg. I was able to connect this woman's sister with the specialists at UCLA that Meg had seen and had performed surgery on Meg. I also promised to add Rose to the prayer list at my church.
Meg finally did pass away in January 2000--almost three years after her initial diagnosis. It was three years that she valued having with her family and seeing her youngest son begin his teenage years. She saw the new centennial arrive and fought hard every step of the way.
I shared that story with Kay to offer some hope and an example of courage and character. I think Kay wanted me to share it with you; maybe it will be of some help to you.
Understanding God's plan can wait, but doing God's will cannot.
I had a chance to talk with Kay before her first chemo treatment. She was upbeat and positive--full of faith and strong character--a wonderful role model in the face of these difficulties. I asked Kay if she liked music and suggested that she take some of her favorite music with her to her chemo session. When the phone conversation ended, I knew that I wanted to send Kay some music, but I didn't know what. After asking for suggestions, I went to Amazon.com and typed in "Dino," a classical Christian pianist. His latest CD popped up, "Miracles." I then knew I had the right selection.
Two weeks ago I was teaching Sunday School for some of the youth at my church. The topic was finding God's will for your life; a woman who led the prayer in worship that morning gave me the theme for the Sunday School lesson and for today--understanding God's plan can wait, but doing God's will cannot.
I had the lesson all planned out, but for some reason, it came to me to tell Kay's story to those young people. When I got home I found Joe's message to me placed on my answering machine at the same time I was sharing Kay's story.
Understanding God's plan can wait, but doing God's will cannot.
I called expecting to learn of Kay's death--after all, she had already had one miracle when she threw a blood clot while in the doctor's office, which would have killed most people--but Kay believed she had experienced a miracle. She believed she had been doubly blessed and thanked people for their prayers.
I don't understand why this marvelous, caring, gracious woman got cancer and left us so quickly. I don't pretend to understand why this loving grandmother, this devoted mother, this faithful wife, this outstanding leader and warm friend, was taken from our midst. Understanding God's plan can wait, but doing God's will cannot. And where does one find God's will--from reading the scriptures, from talking with Christian friends, from prayer, and from listening to that still small voice of God that urges us to action.
We are all going to miss Kay Wilson. Knowing her made us better people-- a little bit of Kay remains alive in all of us--and today, the message is that understanding God's plan can wait, but doing God's will cannot.
Following her election as President-Elect of ACHS in February 2001, Kay Wilson is pictured with ACHS Executive Committee members Dr. John W. Sagabiel (left) of Phi Eta Sigma (outgoing ACHS President) and Dr. John W. Warren of Phi Kappa Phi (incoming ACHS President).
At the June 1998 ACHS Board Meeting, held at Phi Beta Kappa Headquarters, from left: John Warren (Phi Kappa Phi), Jack Sagabiel (Phi Eta Sigma), Dorothy Mitstifer (Kappa Omicron Nu), Michael Wolfe (Kappa Delta Pi), William Johnson (Sigma Tau Delta), Douglas Foard (Phi Beta Kappa), and Kay Wilson (Psi Chi).
At the celebration of ACHS's 75th anniversary in February 2000: Kay Wilson with William Johnson (Sigma Tau Delta); seated, from left, Patricia Graham and Barbara Quilling of Alpha Lambda Delta.
Incoming and outgoing ACHS Board members, February 2002, from left: Dorothy Mitstifer (Kappa Omicron Nu), Richard Pilgrim (Theta Alpha Kappa), Kay Wilson (Psi Chi), John Warren (Phi Kappa Phi), Nancy McManus (Pi Sigma Alpha), Dennis Organ (Alpha Chi), Virgil Holder (Gamma Theta Upsilon), James Viehland (Beta Gamma Sigma), and Jack Sagabiel (Phi Eta Sigma).
On behalf of ACHS, Psi Chi, and Psi Beta (the National Honor Society in Psychology for Community and Junior Colleges), Kay Wilson and Carol Tracy present Certificates of Distinction to Kay's predecessor, Ruth Cousins, who worked diligently to establish Psi Chi and Psi Beta as ACHS member honor societies, and who served as Psi Chi's ACHS representative for 27 years. From left: Scott Gast, Psi Chi Information Systems Manager; Kay Wilson, Psi Chi Executive Officer, 1991-2003; Ruth Cousins, Psi Chi Executive Director, 1959-1991; Carol Tracy, Psi Beta Executive Director (and Ruth's daughter); and Dan Bockert, Psi Chi Director of Publishing.
Kay presents Certificates of Distinction at ACHS's 75th anniversary meeting in February 2000.
Fall 2003 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 32-36), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 2003, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.