Peter Barton Wilson, a 1951 Saint Louis Country Day School graduate whose eight years in the United States Senate overlapped with two other CDS alumni also serving as U.S. Senators, accumulated a distinguished record of public service spanning more than three decades and including terms as mayor of the city of San Diego and, from 1991 to 1999, as governor of the state of California. We were honored to welcome Wilson to Brauer Auditorium for a special Upper School assembly over the winter, where we also announced the inaugural winners of the Pete Wilson ’51 Fellows for Normandy Academy.
Wilson spoke about why remembering World War II is important with our Upper Schoolers and advised them to use their freedom as Americans as an opportunity to serve others. He shared that his brother served in the armed forces, and thankfully returned home when many others did not, and he talked about four CDS educators who also served before coming back to teach.
Wilson came to MICDS as a guest of Mr. Edward “Tee” Turner Baur ’64. Through the generosity of Mr. Baur, two MICDS students will be selected each year as the Pete Wilson ’51 Fellows for Normandy Academy, and receive full scholarships (including flights, tuition and meals) to participate in the Academy. The National World War II Museum’s Normandy Academy is a 12-day immersive summer learning experience in New Orleans, Louisiana and Normandy, France, that challenges students to learn from the choices made before and during the historic D-Day landings. Interested 10th and 11th graders submitted applications, essays and faculty recommendations last fall.
After Wilson’s remarks, Head of School Jay Rainey introduced the two inaugural year winners of the Pete Wilson ’51 Fellows for Normandy Academy: Andrew Lindsey ’21 and Cate Cody ’22. Next winter, Lindsey and Cody will give a brief presentation on their experience to the 9th grade class, in alignment with the Post-1900 World unit on World War II.
After the assembly, Wilson visited the CDS archives for a trip down memory lane before stopping by two history classes to share deeper insights with students.
Congratulations to our inaugural Pete Wilson ’51 Normandy Academy Fellows and many thanks to Tee Baur for his generous gifts.
About Peter Barton Wilson ’51
By Cliff Saxton ’64
A native of Lake Forest, Illinois, and the son of an advertising executive who moved his family to St. Louis, Pete Wilson was enrolled at Country Day in 1946 in the eighth grade. One of his first CDS achievements, a portent of his later public career, was winning the Middle School award in the annual Prize Speaking competition, part of a school tradition which continues today. Demonstrating in the classroom an early aptitude for history and languages, he was also a multi-sport athlete, playing football, basketball, soccer and baseball. He was a versatile actor in the school’s Troubadours and Masque dramatic organizations, and he won national literary prizes as a writer for Country Day’s yearbook and weekly student newspaper. As a senior, Wilson served as president of the Student Council.
Wilson attended Yale University on an ROTC scholarship, receiving a bachelor’s degree in English in 1955, and then served for three years in the U.S. Marine Corps before earning his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1962. After an acquaintance suggested to Wilson that he might do well in the Southern California political arena, he moved away from legal work as a criminal defense attorney and into a more conventional law practice as his interest in politics grew. He embarked on his political career when, in 1966 at age 33, he won a seat on the California State Assembly. He was twice reelected to the Assembly and, in 1971, was elected mayor of San Diego.
In 1982, Wilson won the Republican primary in California to replace U.S. Senator S.I. Hayakawa and was elected to the post, defeating outgoing two-term governor Jerry Brown. His senatorial service coincided with that of Missouri Senators Thomas F. Eagleton, a 1946 Country Day graduate, and John C. Danforth, a 1954 Country Day graduate. At the start of his second six-year term, Senator Wilson announced plans to run for governor of California, and in 1991 he resigned from the Senate after being elected California’s 36th chief executive.
Since leaving elective office, Governor Wilson has pursued a variety of interests, including playing a key fundraising role as a trustee, for many years, of the World War II Museum in New Orleans. Currently he is a principal of the Bingham Consulting Group and is also counsel to Bingham McCutchen, a large national law firm. In addition, he serves as a director of a number of west-coast corporations and is a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Among the many honors he has received during his long career: the Woodrow Wilson Institute Award for Distinguished Public Service; and the Patriots Award of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Through the years, Governor Wilson has returned to our campus, notably in April 1983 when Country Day honored its three U.S. Senators at an all-school assembly. The event is commemorated in the bas-relief “Our Three Senators” proudly displayed in the Brauer Hall Taylor Family Hearth Room.