Longtime Vancouver philanthropist Harriet Wilson dies

Legacy of community work includes support of Clark College

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: August 16, 2011, 6:10 PM

 
photoHarriet Wilson, 73, died Monday.

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Prominent Vancouver philanthropist Harriet Wilson — who played a key role in pioneering the Clark College Foundation — has died. She was 73.

Wilson died Monday afternoon at an adult care home from complications of multiple sclerosis, said her daughter, Lisa Wright.

She was a prominent community activist, having served on several boards over the years, including the Clark College Foundation, Leadership Clark County and the Council For the Homeless.

“She was just so passionate about community and Vancouver in particular,” Wright said Tuesday. “She was just a fearless, tenacious leader.”

Elson Strahan, Fort Vancouver National Trust Executive Director, said Wilson played a key role in launching the Clark College Foundation, where she started serving in 1984. She was the board’s chair for more than 15 years, he said.

“She really was among one of the iconic leaders we’ve lost in the last year,” Strahan said. “She really understood that the nonprofit community had to be vibrant, had to be strong.”

Her noteworthy honors include a Woman of Achievement award in 1992 and a Clark College President’s Award and First Citizen award, both in 1993.

“She was just very strong, smart, tenacious woman. When she wrapped her mind around something and wanted to make it happen, it happened,” Wright said.

Wilson was married to former Columbian Publisher Don Campbell from 1972 to 1988, and worked at the newspaper from 1966 to 1968 as an executive secretary and office manager. She returned to The Columbian in 1976 to 1988 and worked in the human resources department.

Beginning in 1964, Wilson operated Wilson-Wright Properties, which managed rental houses, condos and apartments in the Vancouver area.

Wright said the young Wilson lived for three years on California’s Alcatraz Island, where her father was a guard. The family settled in Clark County in the 1940s, and Wilson grew up in Vancouver.

Wilson loved to travel and had a passion for art. Sadly, Wright said, her mother was unable to keep up with her civic duties as she battled multiple sclerosis in recent years.

About her charity work, Wright said: “She did not want to leave anyone behind.”

Wilson is survived by Wright, daughter Wendy Wright, a grandson and five stepchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that well-wishers make a contribution to any charity.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker.