Bidding Farewell To Both Mr. Wil(l)sons

By: Simeon Parker

This spring we will be saying goodbye to Mr. Sam Willson, this year’s Henry Callard Fellow.  Mr. Willson was one of the Upper School Music History teachers and an assistant Varsity Basketball Coach.  Part of his role was assisting Music Department Chair, Mr. Ariel Dechosa, in teaching a few sections of tenth grade Music History.  Mr. Willson also conducted for the Glee Club and helped with the Upper School musical Curtains.

Mr. Willson was the assistant rehearsal pianist and helped make the musical run as smoothly as possible.  Curtains Director Mr. John Rowell said “He is an extremely talented musician, and we were very fortunate to have him working with us. Above and beyond his role as our rehearsal pianist, Mr. Willson also worked with us in the last few weeks of rehearsals as part of our production team, sitting in on rehearsals and working with Ms. [Kelsey] Carper and me as we got the show ready for opening night. He was a great friend to all of us and to the production, and helped us out enormously,” Mr. Rowell states, “We will miss him next year, for sure--not only his talent and his musicianship but especially his generous spirit and his great sense of humor and fun.”

Mr. Willson describes his time at Gilman as “The perfect place to start not just my professional teaching career, but my professional career in general.  I can’t possibly think of a more nurturing place to start my teaching career.”  Upper School Head Mr. Rob Heubeck comments, “The legacy I think he will have left is setting a standard for how to create relationships, I think that we can all learn from his ability to show that he cares.” This demonstrates the impact Mr. Willson had on all of Gilman.

After a period of thoughtful deliberation, Mr. Willson said one of his best memories of Gilman would be “Our one league win this year in John Carroll, our guys went out and played a really perfect game that was necessary to beat this team.  We pulled out a totally unlikely victory, and seeing our guys piece that kind of performance together was really inspiring.  Seeing how happy we all were and knowing what had come together in that game was really cool.”  

Kenny Ihenatu (’19) states, “As a student of Mr. Wilson's, I can say that the passion he brought to the classroom is what I will miss most about him. Each day he taught, you could see his genuine love of his craft that made getting engaged in the material much easier. His kind and youthful personality radiated each class day that he was with us and he made learning music history much more enjoyable. He will surely be missed by all the students he taught during his time here.”

In each of the roles he had here, Mr. Willson worked with a broad span of students and became a real part of the Gilman Community. When asked what he would miss most about Mr. Willson, Sean Kim (’19) said “Just saying ‘hi’ to him on a daily basis.”  Mr. Willson will be staying in the field of music with an internship in the development office of the Ravinia Music Festival this summer. We wish him the best as he moves on to the next phase of his career.