M. Roy Wilson’s list of accomplishments as Wayne State’s 12th president is long and impressive. But as Wilson addressed the crowd at the dedication of the newly renovated M. Roy Wilson State Hall on Monday, Oct. 30, he said having the building named in his honor was his crowning achievement.
“Thank you for this tremendous honor; as I transition into what will undoubtedly be the final phase of my career as a physician, biomedical researcher and as an academic administrator, there are many moments I can reflect upon with fondness and pride. But this moment, this moment is my capstone,” Wilson said before taking a bow of respect to the crowd gathered for the dedication.
State Hall recently reopened after going through $80 million in renovations. The building features new classrooms, lecture halls, meeting and lounge spaces, a reflection room, lactation room, and all-gender restrooms. Its renovation is part of Wayne State’s commitment to align its facilities with the evolving needs of its students.
"It exceeded my expectations; it's fabulous,” said Wilson, who took a tour prior to the ceremony. “I thought it was going to be good, but this has really exceeded my expectations. I wasn't sure if renovating was the right decision versus building a new building, but after seeing it, I think it was the right decision. To continue to have the character of the old State Hall, but with all the new amenities and technology, it’s the best of both worlds.”
Board of Governors Chair Mark Gaffney said the Wayne State Board of Governors had several buildings to choose from when they decided to name a building after Wilson, but after some discussion, there was only one choice.
“The reason the board unanimously chose State Hall to be named after President M. Roy Wilson was its appropriateness,” Gaffney said during the dedication ceremony. “This building is student centered, just like President Wilson was and is. All of our students are impacted by this building; over 90% will pass through its doors, just like they were impacted by President Wilson's tenure. The building is modern, it's ready for the future and it's impressive, just like President Wilson. And with a brand-new suit, boy it looks good.”
During his 10-year run as president, Wilson masterfully navigated turbulent times, growing the graduation rate and shrinking the gap between graduation rates for students of color and white students. He also helped grow the campus footprint with the construction of the 70,000-square-foot Wayne State Fieldhouse, STEM Innovation Learning Center, Mike Ilitch School of Business and Anthony Wayne Drive Apartments, along with completion of renovations to the Student Center Building and Hilberry Gateway.
Under Wilson’s leadership, Wayne State increased its extramural research funding awards by more than $135 million to $288.4 million in FY22.
Wilson also furthered Wayne State’s institutional commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by hiring the university’s first diversity officer, creating the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement and launching the Social Justice Action Committee.
“The names on buildings across this campus represent people from Wayne State's history that have had an impact,” Wilson said. “I am deeply honored to have my name among the others. In truth, I would have been honored to have my name on any building, but I am overjoyed that the board chose this particular building — arguably the building most closely identified with students on this campus.”
Wayne State President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D., thanked everyone who worked to renovate State Hall and turn it into a model for other buildings on Wayne State’s campus moving forward.
“Thank you to the team who helped turn a tired building into a beautiful addition to our campus and a beacon for learning that advances the success of our outstanding students,” Espy said. “Let me particularly recognize the invaluable role that our outstanding faculty played in providing input into the facility design and technology selection – it is your insights that helped to ensure these spaces will foster the highest caliber of learning.”
Espy said it was fitting State Hall will bear Wilson’s name because of all he did for students during this tenure as president.
“Dr. Wilson is a man of many talents and accomplishments — too many to name here today,” Espy said. “Whether it was tackling health disparities, steering the university through a global pandemic or record gains in graduation rates, Dr. Wilson’s heart was always centered on our students.
“It was that heart that guided Wayne State to become a national model for student success. Dramatic growth, across the full diversity of our student body. Behind the numbers, though, were students. Each student with an individual dream, aspiration and challenges. Dr. Wilson, having faced and conquered many challenges in his own life, marshalled the resources of the university to help students to access to this great university and to succeed.
“We are determined and committed to building on his legacy of student success, starting right here in the building that is named in his honor: M. Roy Wilson State Hall.”