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Dr. Mike Wilson stood to be recognized May 7 during one of Northwest's commencement ceremonies for the completion of a bachelor’s degree in theatre performance, which he earned after serving the University for 27 years as a faculty member. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Dr. Mike Wilson stood to be recognized May 7 during one of Northwest's commencement ceremonies for the completion of a bachelor’s degree in theatre performance, which he earned after serving the University for 27 years as a faculty member. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

May 31, 2022

Retired faculty member returns to earn theatre degree


Dr. Mike Wilson set a new example for lifelong learners when he graduated this spring from Northwest Missouri State University – nearly 50 years after receiving his first degree from the University and a decade after he retired from it as a faculty member.

A teacher of accounting, economics and finance at Northwest for 27 years, Wilson retired in 2011 but returned in 2019 to be a student again and – at age 70 on May 7 – completed a bachelor’s degree in theatre performance.

“My wife and I have always enjoyed going to theater, going to plays, but I can’t say I ever thought about acting,” Wilson said, aside from acting in a couple plays as a high school student.

Yet, he became interested in acting a few years ago as a way to share an activity with his granddaughter, who was taking a class offered by the Rubidoux Resident Theater in St. Joseph, Missouri. Wilson enrolled in a class for older adults and caught the acting bug while performing in a Rubidoux production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

His interest in theatre was enough that he decided to pursue a degree in it at Northwest.

“It was one of those things where I was getting in some plays in St. Joseph and I didn’t feel like I was really that good,” he said. “I wanted to try to get better.”

Wilson took pride in learning the multiple facets of theatre at Northwest. In addition to improving his acting, he gained technical skills by taking classes related to scenic, costume and lighting design as well as stage management, directing and playwriting.

“It was much more all-encompassing than just acting,” Wilson said.

Although, Wilson had the unique perspective of being a retired faculty member when he returned to the classroom – and in some cases having former colleagues as his instructors – he wanted no favors and asked to be treated the same as his classmates.

“I said I wouldn’t give up my faculty parking place,” he joked, before adding, “I was a student. I did everything that the students did. I said from day one that I was going to be a student.”

Joining the long-standing tradition at Northwest, Wilson participated with other first-year theatre students in the Freshman/Transfer Showcase to open the 2019-20 academic year. He also appeared in Northwest productions of “Under Milk Wood,” directed by Dr. Theo Ross in February 2020, and “A Memory of Spoon River: A Tribute to Edgar Lee Masters,” a film the Department of Fine and Performing Arts produced in spring 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic limited live theatre. For the latter, he filled three roles, wrote two monologues and was a location scout.

On his way to completing his bachelor’s degree during the past academic year, he appeared in two more productions – a one-act play called “Ashes” and as Dr. Diafoirus in Molière’s “The Imaginary Invalid.”

Wilson (right) appeared in Theatre Northwest's 2020 production of “Under Milk Wood,” among other plays. (Northwest Missouri State University photo)

Wilson (right) appeared in Theatre Northwest's 2020 production of “Under Milk Wood,” among other plays. (Northwest Missouri State University photo)

Now with his newly earned degree in hand, Wilson says he intends to not only continue acting at the Rubidoux Resident Theater but wants to try his hand at more directing.

“Northwest has taken good care of me and my family,” Wilson said. “The theatre department was a revelation to me. All of the faculty there are just superb. You won’t find a department anywhere that cares for the students like they do. What a dedicated group of people they are. I learned so much about theatre and life from them.” 

Having grown up in northwest Missouri, the University was a natural choice for Wilson when he decided in 1970 to pursue his first bachelor’s degree in pre-professional zoology with hopes of a career in the medical field. His plans changed, though, when he started working at a Pizza Hut restaurant as a student and advanced to become manager of a St. Joseph location.

After graduating from Northwest in 1975, he took a management job with a transportation service and moved with the company to St. Louis.

“I was running a good part of the company, and they had no business experience whatsoever,” Wilson said. So he enhanced his knowledge by completing a Master of Business Administration degree at Southern Illinois University.

Wanting to return to northwest Missouri with his wife, Theresa, a 1973 alumna, Wilson took an open faculty position at Northwest in 1982. After a stint teaching management courses, he left the University for two years to earn his doctorate degree in finance and returned to teach in the business department for another 25 years.



Contact

Dr. Mark Hornickel
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660.562.1704
mhorn@covenhouse.com