Honoring the Legacy of Speed’s Wartime Dean, Ford Lee Wilkinson Jr.

Walta Lee Wilkinson Carmichael

Walta’s gift will ensure her father’s legacy lives on for generations to come.

Walta Wilkinson Carmichael, who earned her undergraduate degree in education at UofL in the latter half of the 1960s, recalls the anomaly of being picked up at Threlkeld Hall by a chauffeur to have lunch at the home of William Speed, co-founder of the James Breckenridge “J.B.” Speed Foundation, and his wife, Virginia. This invitation was the result of Walta’s father, Ford Lee Wilkinson Jr., having served as Dean, while Walta was a young child, of what was then known as the Speed Scientific School at the University of Louisville. “My father’s network helped me to feel at home in Louisville,” Walta recalls. “We moved around a lot because of his career, but he was highly respected and maintained friendships and professional connections, even after he left.”

Walta has chosen to include the University of Louisville in her estate plan, as well as to make a current gift to begin to fund the endowment bearing her father’s name, as a way to honor her father’s memory and his multiple contributions to engineering education.

After graduating from the Naval Academy, Ford Lee Wilkinson was on active duty during the final year of World War I. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and was a submarine commanding officer and chief engineer before leaving the Navy in 1927. After several civilian positions, Wilkinson spent five years as the head of mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee—a position that led to his selection as Dean of the Speed School in 1938. During his nine-year tenure at Speed, the student body doubled from 250 to 500, the J.B. Speed Building was constructed and plans were made for Sackett Hall, a new mechanical engineering building.

Ford Lee Wilkinson Jr.

Walta’s endowment fund is named after her late father, Ford Lee Wilkinson Jr.

In addition, Wilkinson reorganized Speed School’s four-year curriculum into a five-year co-operative educational program before being named the first academic dean of the Navy Post-Graduate School in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1947. In 1949, he was appointed president of what is now Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he served until his death in 1958.

To begin the endowment that will be fully funded through her estate, Walta, a retired fourth-grade teacher, used appreciated stock, inherited as the result of a savvy purchase her parents made in the 1940s. Appropriately, the fund will support undergraduate scholarships as well as projects of priority to the Dean of the Speed School.

For more information about including the University of Louisville in your estate plan, or about gifting appreciated securities, including mutual funds, please contact the Office for Estate and Gift Planning at plannedgifts@louisville.edu or (502) 852-5051.