Roger Keith Wilson
July 29, 1939 - August 22, 2020
Roger Keith Wilson was born to Ashton and Neola Wilson in Council Bluffs, IA on 7/29/39. He grew up in Sioux Falls, SD where he was a prominent scholar and athlete at Washington High School and then went on to attend Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. on an academic scholarship. At Harvard, he excelled in academics, earning two degrees in engineering and applied mathematics and sciences. He also played guard and tackle for The Harvard Crimson and competed in the hammer throw and shotput on the track and field team. His prowess in the hammer throw afforded him the opportunity to try out for the 1960 Summer Olympics.
Roger married Maria Dolores Guijarro in 1961 upon her graduation from Wellesley. Immediately after graduating from Harvard, he began his 36 year career with IBM which included assignments stateside, and abroad in Munich and London.
Roger’s assignments afforded him and his family to live in many place including Poughkeepsie N.Y. Bradford PA, White Plains NY, Munich Germany, London and Atlanta. He held positions in business development, sales, marketing and finance and was considered an expert in the manufacturing industry’s use of computers. He was involved in the earliest phases of development of automobile traffic control systems.
After a position in Germany where he created sales programs for IBM targeting the Europe and Middle East manufacturing industry, he came to Atlanta with his family. In Atlanta, he was instrumental in introducing IBM’s first mini-computer, the IBM Series/1.
It is interesting to note in Roger’s early days at IBM he earned a field promotion to sales manager in Bradford, PA, which was very rare to be promoted directly from a field sales position, but Roger’s skill and dedication earned him that honor. One of Roger’s managers was quoted as saying “if you gave Roger an assignment, you had better want to get it done,” because there was no way of stopping him once he got started. Conversely, Roger always liked to tell the story about another manager who said “I wish I had ten more like you. My problem is, I’ve got a hundred.”
Roger always had a unique approach to his projects. For example, when he transferred back from Europe instead of flying direct, he took Maria and flew in the opposite direction. So, they went around the world to return to the east coast.
Roger was always the guy who arranged new people to meet each other, and kept his contacts current. He made himself an expert in almost everything from technology to music to culture and to finance. He will be sorely missed.
After IBM, Roger did not rest. He held several positions in sales and management. One of the more exciting places was Leasing Solutions. There he arranged financing for start-ups. He provided many jobs for many people by doing so.
So we can ask, even with all this talent, how did Roger Keith manage to get his start? It seems that Harvard sent an alumnus to South Dakota to scout for the few and far between candidates.
The gentleman showed up at Washington High School and asked the principal if he could speak to the school janitor (whose name is lost in history). The principal did so and when the Harvard man asked the janitor for his recommendation for the straightest arrow of all the seniors, the best student that did not drink or smoke, Roger Wilson was the one if not the most boring candidate ever to travel to Cambridge, Mass. To this day, the hallowed halls of White Plains are not aware that the future and the entire success of the big blue brand for all these years were because a nameless janitor in the wilds of South Dakota gave Roger Keith Wilson his blessing.
Roger was active in local organizations such as Cobb County Civil Service Board, Civil Air Patrol, The Harvard Club, Rotary Club of Buckhead and his beloved TuLuBu (TUesday for LUnch BUnch) The requirement to attend was to be an interesting person. That’s all. And Roger collected some very interesting persons over the years. He was an avid gardener, music lover, car enthusiast, Ferrari aficionado, pilot and “mad” scientist. He was a great friend to many people worldwide. He loved to make people laugh with his endless supply of jokes on any occasion. Roger specialized in puns – lowest of the low forms of humor. Very befitting.
He was a man of faith and integrity and is and will forever be missed by all he came in contact with over his magnificent 81 years. Not a bad record for the gentleman from Somewhere in South Dakota.
Roger leaves behind his loving wife Maria Guijarro Wilson, daughters Victoria “Vikki” Wilson McCorkle (David) of Rydal, GA and Sara Wilson Scott of Mt. Juliet, TN, grandchildren Nicholas Van Weele (Hannah), Samantha Dickens Smith-Moran (Savion) and Grace Elizabeth Scott and two great grandchildren Grant Nicholas and Emerson Paige Van Weele and brother Ashton Rhodes Wilson (Jana). He is preceded in death by his father, Ashton; mother, Neola and brother, Albert Russell Wilson.
Plans for a memorial and celebration of life service are in the planning stage. The family hopes to see one and all there, circumstances permitting.
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