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Jeffrey R. Wilson receives ASU's 2024 MLK Jr. Faculty Servant-Leadership Award

Portrait of Jeffrey Wilson

Jeffrey R. Wilson

January 02, 2024

Jeffrey R. Wilson, Arizona State University professor of statistics and biostatistics, associate dean of research and inclusive excellence, co-chair of LIFT Initiative, and a Faculty Athletics Representative, has been chosen to receive the 2024 ASU MLK Jr. Faculty Servant-Leadership Award. 

He will be recognized at the university's MLK Jr. breakfast celebration on Jan. 18.

Wilson, an ASU faculty member since 1985, has an extensive history of leadership that proves his dedication to serving his community. His areas of expertise include biomedical, statistics and law, business management, and public opinion research. He is an advocate for equity and inclusion at the W. P. Carey School of Business, and plays an important role in athletics at ASU, supporting student-athlete rights.

Despite all of this, Wilson says he was "shocked" to receive the award.

"I never thought I did enough to be worthy of anything associated with Dr. King. But the meaning behind an award for Servant-Leadership is humbling beyond measure," Wilson says. "I’m honored that my efforts to help students throughout ASU have made an impact and a difference."

Here, Wilson elaborates on his leadership philosophy and the experiences that have inspired his passion for service.

Question: How have your life experiences shaped you into the leader you are today?

Answer: I've always told my children, “Everything you do in life will prepare you for something in the future.” I came from humble beginnings — by the time I was 15, I was without a mother and father. However, in those beginning years, my mother ingrained in me the power of education. With an education anything is possible. Seeking an education personally and spreading the importance of an education to others has been at the core of everything I do.   

Q: How have you incorporated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s values of service and inclusion in your everyday life? 
A: Dr. King embodied service, equality, love and selflessness. Whenever I get an opportunity to talk to a student — it does not necessarily have to be my student — I use some part of the conversation to encourage them to do more than they plan.   

Q: What has been your most memorable experience or experiences of helping others? 

A: For (over 26) years, I volunteered en gratis as head soccer coach for boys between 9 and 18 years. Each year I had two or three teams. To be on any of my teams, you had to commit to doing other things in addition to soccer, such as serving at St. Vincent DePaul and nursing homes and preparing for the PSAT, SAT and ACT on a weekly basis. I saw kids whose families never went to college make it to college with athletic or academic scholarships. Although I have since retired from coaching, it is so rewarding to catch up with these players and hear them talk about what a difference these activities made in their lives.   

Q: Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated to serve others? 

A: One thing about a career in academia is that it keeps your mind young. Each year there is a new crew of students embarking on the beginning of their adult lives. They give me energy, motivation and desire to serve so they can impact others. They usually have new research ideas. It is a joy to work with young people who one day will be better than me in the profession.

Q: What advice would you give to future leaders here at ASU? 

A: Always think of others first. Remember that everyone has a story. Do not take things as a failure, but as a path to better conditions. 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

A: The best gift you can give to anyone is an education, regardless of its form. 

More 2024 MLK Jr. awardees

Student Servant-Leadership Award: Jamelyn Ebelacker

Staff Servant-Leadership Award: Kenja Hassan

Community Servant-Leadership Award: Larry Fitzgerald Foundation

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