Matilda Rausch Dodge Wilson and her husband John Dodge, the automotive pioneer, bought the 320-acre Meadow Brook farm near Rochester, Michigan. The chair is named after this farm. Following the death of John Dodge, she married lumber broker Alfred Gaston Wilson. They moved to Meadow Brook and acquired 8 additional farms, building a 2,600-acre working farm that employed 40 workers.
One of those workers was George D, Miller, Jr., now partner in a Detroit law firm and president of the Matilda R. Wilson Fund. “I knew her as both her farmhand and her lawyer,” said Miller. “I’m aware of her feeling toward farm animals—horses in particular. The College of Veterinary Medicine is forward-looking, and I know that Mrs. Wilson was involved and supportive of it while alive. I’m happy to continue that connection in the form of her legacy.”
Matilda Wilson, a committed philanthropist, served as an MSU trustee from 1931 to 1937, and was named trustee emeritus in 1960.
MSU gave her an honorary degree in 1955, and named Wilson Residence Hall in honor of her and her husband in 1962. In 1957, the Wilson’s gave most of their land holdings, including Meadow Brook Hall, and a $200 million endowment to MSU to found a branch of the University that eventually became the independent institution Oakland University. Matilda Wilson also helped fund the John A. Hannah endowed chairs.
In 1985, the Matilda R. Wilson Fund, a charitable trust she had established in Detroit, gave more than $1 million to MSU to establish the Matilda R. Wilson Chair in Large Animal Clinical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and in 1998, it gave another $1.5 million to create the Matilda R. Wilson Equine Respiratory Disease Research Endowment in the College.
Speaking four decades ago, Matilda Wilson said, “My long association with MSU has shown me the tremendous contribution it is making to our educational and cultural life.” Read more about Matilda Wilson's legacy at MSU.