Dr Jesse Wilbert “Wil” Edgerton

Dr Jesse Wilbert “Wil” Edgerton

Wayne County, North Carolina, USA
Death 1 Oct 2012 (aged 93)
Greensboro, Guilford County, North Carolina, USA
Burial Pikeville, Wayne County, North Carolina, USA
Memorial ID 126433375 · View Source
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The following biography of the Edgertons is quoted from Mrs. Edgerton's 2000 booklet on her maternal ancestry, "The Family of William Abner Brownell 1719-2000":

Marianna grew up on a small farm in Myricks, MA, where she had a very happy but uneventful childhood. She majored in Psychology at Guilford College and met her future husband there. During the three years after graduation before their marriage, she was a social worker in mental hospitals in Massachusetts and in a girls' correctional school in Virginia. Her husband, Wil Edgerton, had grown up on a farm in North Carolina and was a birthright Quaker. He graduated from Guilford and later earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Duke University. As a conscientious objector during World War II, he was assigned to work at Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, VA, which led to his career in mental health. He worked in Daytona Beach, FL, and Birmingham, AL, then was the Regional Mental Health Consultant in the U.S. Public Health Service in Charlottesville, VA, and Regional Mental Health Program Director in Chicago, IL. Finally, for 24 years, he was a professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the Medical School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He held many offices in professional and volunteer organizations and received numerous awards. At various times he was president of the North Carolina Psychological Association, the North Carolina Mental Health Association, the Mental Health Section of the American Public Health Association, and the Community Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. He served on the Board of Trustees of Guilford College for 20 years. He kept up with politics and sports, sang in church choirs and barbershop groups, and did crossword puzzles in ink.

When their four children were young, Marianna taught Sunday school, was a Scout leader, volunteered in PTA, church, and other community organizations. After their youngest child entered high school, she earned a Master's degree in biostatistics at the UNC School of Public Health. She worked for 12 years as a research associate in child development studies. In 1972 when she started this work, she used the one computer on the UNC campus, which filled a large room and was fed data on IBM cards. This electronic marvel could perform in seconds, statistical analyses that would have required weeks of tedious work using the mechanical calculators that were available up to that time.

During their college days Wil and Marianna had both enjoyed singing in the Guilford College a capella choir and going on its annual spring tours. During their later life, in the various places they lived, more often than not they sang in their local church choir. They traveled extensively for Wil's work and for pleasure. They took several trips with the Friendship Force, which included home stays in foreign countries, and they, in turn, hosted many foreign guests. In 2000 Marianna worked with her daughter Elizabeth on a genealogy project, using a computer that was entirely different from the 1972 variety.

The following is quoted from an interview of Dr. Edgerton for the Guilford College Alumni magazine, found on the following website:

If a sense of Guilford College was not in my blood when I was born, it must easily have been a part of the air I was breathing. My mother and father had attended Guilford or New Garden Boarding School, as had a grandfather and a number of other relatives. Needless to say, Guilford was a topic of conversation around my home in the Nahunta community of Wayne County, N.C. When I graduated first in my class of seven boys and six girls from our small rural high school in 1933 at age 14-and-a-half, little, if any, thought was given to sending me to college. The Great Depression was well underway and I was now available as a full-time farm worker. So my muscles were fully occupied with plowing and cultivating and harvesting tobacco, cotton, corn, small grain and soybeans. After a couple of years of this activity, it seemed as though I should make some effort for change. I had taken some correspondence courses and considered entering a business college when one afternoon in the late spring of 1936, Dr. Raymond Binford, Guilford's president emeritus, appeared in our yard. He offered me the opportunity to join a group of young Quaker men who would live at his house and study scriptures and religious teachings, prepare meals, do the chores and also take courses at Guilford. The cost of living with Raymond and Helen Binford was to be $10 monthly for board, and my father said that he would try to provide tuition and fees. Suffice it to say that I did choose that option, taking the full course load and doing a minimum of designated religious practices. In the fall of 1938, I moved to the Old South Section of Cox Hall for my junior and senior years.Entering Guilford widened my social and intellectual horizons in ways that I could not have anticipated. The acclaimed "core curriculum" which had been introduced by Dr. Binford, and elaborated by his successor, Dr. Clyde Milner, consisted of tools in science, languages, mathematics and writing, through which to achieve intellectual freedom and independence; understanding the world through its art, literary heritage, history, religion and philosophy; and opportunity for mastery of at least one field of knowledge, which might also lead to a vocation. But my love and appreciation for Guilford did not come only from academic opportunities. Through extracurricular activities, my experiences and friendships were greatly extended. A signal social experience for me was learning to dance. Dancing had not been permitted at Guilford until approved by the Board ofTrustees in 1933, against the sentiment of a great many members of the North Carolina Yearly Meeting of Friends. I mention dancing only to say that it was an important vehicle in building the sense of unity of the student body. One of the ladies who danced with me at that first dance was Marianna Dow'40 of Massachusetts. She had caught my eye before that with her dark hair, open face, lovely skin, pleasingly plump proportions, sweetness and good mind. Moreover, she was a good sport. By the senior year Marianna and I developed a relationship that seemed as though it might have lasting qualities, and I am proud to say that about three years later we said our marriage vows. We recently celebrated our 60th anniversary. I have great appreciation for the individuals, the forces, the soul and the spirit of being that made Guilford, which opened me to the world and launched me into a life that has been most productive and satisfying. In addition, it gave me my dearly beloved life companion. I love Guilford College!
Edgerton is a trustee emeritus and former member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. He is professor emeritus of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health.

Page 4
Winter 2004 -- Guilford College Magazine13 A L U M N I R E L A T I O N S
The Alumni Association presented Alumni Excellence Awards to Wil Edgerton '40 and Keith Holliday '75 and the Distinguished Service Award to CharliePatterson during a homecoming luncheon in October. Edgerton and Holliday were honored for outstanding professional achievement. Patterson, who is vice president for advancement, was honored for outstanding service to the college. In a career spanning more than 50 years, Edgerton held a variety of positions in the mental health field and higher education. He worked with the Alabama Association for Mental Health and National Institute for Mental Health and taught at the University of Alabama and University of Virginia. He was on faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill for nearly 25 years and is professor emeritus of the School of Public Health. Edgerton has served on Guilford's Board of Trustees since 1979, and has been a trustee emeritus since 1999. He has served on the Alumni Board and Friends of the Library Board, and along with his wife, Marianna '40, was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in 1991.Edgerton earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Guilford, a master's degree in psychology from the University of Florida in 1947 and a doctorate in clinical psychology and sociology from Duke University in 1953.

Paper: Greensboro News & Record
Date: May 15, 1991
Page: 2

The Guilford College Alumni Association has chosen six alumni for recognition of service and excellence. Awards will be presented at the college's annual Awards Convocation Saturday.

J. Wilbert Edgerton and Marianna Dow Edgerton of Chapel Hill, both members of the class of 1940, will receive the association's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, for their years of outstanding commitment and prolonged service to Guilford College.

Wilbert Edgerton has served for six years as a member of the Alumni Association Board and for 11 years as a member of the board of trustees of the college, chairing various committees. A member of and solicitor for the President's Club, he cochaired the National Loyalty Fund in 1985-87. He also served for many years as an Admissions Associate.

As an undergraduate at Guilford, he was a class officer, member of the student senate, stage manager for the choir and circulation manager for The Guilfordian.

After graduation from Guilford, he was awarded a doctoral degree in psychology from Duke University and became a nationally known authority on rural mental health care. He retired in 1989 after 24 years on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Marianna Dow Edgerton is an 11-year member of the Guilford College President's Club and, with her husband, cochaired the Loyalty Fund in 1985-87. She represented the Class of 1940 in the Sesquicentennial Celebration and was a member of the 50th Reunion Committee in 1989-90.

At Guilford, she served as class officer, was active in student government, played varsity hockey and intramural basketball, presided over the campus YWCA and sang in the choir.

Following graduation, she worked in education and social work, receiving her master's degree in public health from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1975. She worked for 14 years at UNC-Chapel Hill as a research assistant with the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center and the School of Public Health, retiring in 1986.

Comments I, Bryan Scott Godfrey, posted to Facebook and/or email upon learning of Dr. Edgerton's death:

It saddens me to once again report the death of an inspiring relative I knew, Dr. Jesse Wilbert ("Wil") Edgerton, of Chapel Hill and Greensboro, NC, Monday at almost 94 years of age. Here is a picture I took of him, his wife Marianna Dow Edgerton (now 93) on right, and our mutual cousin Sarah Moore Shoffner, Ph.D. of Greensboro and Liberty, NC, in April 2009, the last time I saw Dr. and Mrs. Edgerton when Sarah and I visited them at Friends Homes West in Greensboro. Dr. and Mrs. E were both Guilford alums who were married 69 years, and he was a psychology professor and she a biostatistician at UNC-Chapel Hill. He was my maternal grandmother's 3rd cousin through the Edgerton family, and also his father, Haskell Edgerton, was first married to my great-grandfather's sister, Mary Pearson, who died in childbirth in 1915, and then he married Cousin Roella Cox and had 4 more children, Dr. E being the oldest. They carried on the Quaker traditions of our mutual ancestors. He was a first cousin once removed of Lloyd Massey, who died last week at 96. I enjoyed visiting them about 4-5 times since 2004 and sharing my genealogy with them. Mrs. Edgerton is a descendant of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams.

Dr. and Mrs. Edgerton were proof that one can age gracefully and actively. The first time I visited them in Friends Homes in 2004, they invited me to join them in a weekly book/newspaper article discussion group with other seniors. I remember a 95-year-old retired physician discussing an article he had read in the "New England Journal of Medicine." Others were discussing books they were reading. If I ever have to go into assisted living or retirement communities when I become elderly (hopefully more than 50 years from now), Friends Homes would be the place to go. However, they told me the majority of residents there nowadays are not of Quaker affiliation. Her parents were the first residents of the older Friends Homes nearby before their deaths in 1976 at age 92, and as both of her older siblings lived into their 90s and she is 93, Mrs. Edgerton has really good genes! Also ideal for them was the fact that they were both active and distinguished Guilford College alumni and were able to spend their twilight years less than a mile away from the college. During my second visit with them in 2006 while researching the Quaker genealogy collection at Guilford, Dr. E was being interviewed by college freshmen about what Guilford was like when he matriculated there 70 years earlier.



GREENSBORO — Jesse Wilbert (Wil) Edgerton died on October 1 in Greensboro, NC.

Wil was born on November 21, 1918, to a Quaker farming family in Nahunta, near Goldsboro, NC. He attended Guilford College and there met Marianna Dow, his future wife. After graduation in 1940, he taught high school before being drafted into Civilian Public Service. He worked as an attendant in a mental hospital, which inspired him to work to prevent mental illness. He earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Duke University in 1953.

Wil's career was directed toward the public's need for mental health services. He worked for Volusia County, Florida, then as Executive Director of the Alabama Association of Mental Health, then in regional offices of the National Institute of Mental Health in Charlottesville and Chicago

Finally settling in Chapel Hill, from 1965 to 1989 Wil was a professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at UNC. He was one of a group of Community Mental Health professors who, besides teaching future physicians, researched community psychiatry alternative services and rural mental health and held workshops for professionals. He was the director of a popular workshop held 15 summers in the NC mountains. He held many offices in professional and volunteer organizations, including president of the NC Mental Health Association, the NC Psychological Association, the Mental Health Section of the American Public Health Association, and the Community Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. He won national awards for Distinguished Contributions to Practice in Community Psychology and for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Public Service. He was a volunteer lobbyist at the NC legislature on behalf of mental health issues, an activity which continued after retirement.

Wil and Marianna were married in 1943. After their four children were grown, they traveled extensively, visiting 40 countries and six continents, often in exchange programs with the Friendship Force. They moved to Friends Homes West in 2000.

Wil made strong and lasting personal relationships. Having great affection for his alma mater, Wil served on the Board of Trustees of Guilford College for 30 years, and was honored with both the Alumni Excellence and the Distinguished Service Awards. He was a sports fan, especially UNC basketball, and kept informed on current events. He did crossword puzzles in ink, sometimes during boring meetings. He could write a limerick for any occasion.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Haskell and Roella Cox Edgerton of Wayne County, NC, sisters Ruth, Esther, and Elizabeth; and brothers Howard and Kenneth.

He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Marianna Dow Edgerton of Greensboro; children David and Alison Hay Edgerton of Backus, MN; Karen and Dillon Robertson of Winston-Salem; Stephen and Dawn McKissick Edgerton of Chapel Hill; and Elizabeth and Alex Albright of Fountain, NC; six grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Residents Assistance Fund, Friends Homes West, 6100 West Friendly Avenue, Greensboro; the J. Wilbert and Marianna Dow Edgerton Scholarship Fund, Guilford College, 5800 West Friendly Avenue, Greensboro; or a charity of the donor's choice.

Published in News Record on October 4, 2012

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Gravesite Details Comment: He and his wife were cremated. This marker is a memorial, not an actual grave. His wife died 2 month later, and their lifespans were exactly the same or one day difference.

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  • Created by: Bryan S. Godfrey
  • Added: 16 Mar 2014
  • Find A Grave Memorial 126433375
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dr Jesse Wilbert “Wil” Edgerton (21 Nov 1918–1 Oct 2012), Find A Grave Memorial no. 126433375, citing Pearson-Lewis-Edgerton-Gurley Plot, Pikeville, Wayne County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by Bryan S. Godfrey (contributor 46982727) .