One of SI’s greatest supporters over the years was Al Wlsey ’36. He died in 2002, but his legacy can still be felt at SI, from the library named in his honor to the many years of service he gave the school as regent and trustee.
At the age of 12, he accepted an eight-year scholarship to SI and USF offered to the brightest incoming freshman. He and his brother, Jack Wilsey ’34, traveled daily by ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco to reach SI, and despite the commute, both Wilseys excelled in academics and athletics. In addition to playing football, Al argued on the speech and debate team and was a member of the honor society.7
By 1937, Al’s first year at USF, both his mother and father had passed away, leaving the Wilsey Bennett Company family butter and egg business to Al and Jack. The company prospered under the direction of the brothers, and after World War II expanded into other products, including margarine, shortening and salad oil. Today, among other things, the Wilsey Bennett Company is involved in real estate development and venture capital investment. In explaining his success, Al characteristically responded, “We were just at the right place at the right time.”
In the true Ignatian spirit of service, over the years, Al gave generously of his time, talent, and resources. He served the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco as a trustee, and a room in the Palace of the Legion of Honor is named for him and his wife, Dede. He was an avid supporter of numerous San Francisco institutions, including the opera and the California Academy of Sciences.
When Fr. Carlin created the Board of Regents in the 1960s, he invited Wilsey to join. Wilsey led both capital campaigns — the one to build the Sunset District campus in the 1960s and the one to remodel it in the 1990s after the school became coeducational. To thank him for his efforts, SI named him a Life Regent and made him one of three lay members of the Board of Trustees — the ownership body of the school — when that group was formed in the late 1990s.
“He is one of the most helpful and considerate alums I have ever met,” said Fr. Sauer on the day Wilsey received the school’s Christ the King Award. “He is among the rare individuals who helped us through major hurdles and difficulties of all kinds to allow SI the freedom to concentrate on advancing our mission as an educational institution.” His son Alfred S. “Lad” Wilsey, Jr., is a member of the school’s Board of Regents.