Allan & Laura Wilson

Leaders in Philanthropy and Education

Allan and Laura Wilson

For years, the Wilson family owned and operated grocery stores in southeastern North Carolina. It was a successful business, built on community. They provided people with the things they needed and ushered many local high school students into the working world by offering them their first jobs. 

“Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of young people who are very bright and hard-working but need a little encouragement to get ahead,” Laura Wilson said. “It’s one of the reasons that we really value education.” 

The Wilsons have supported a number of causes throughout the region, but education is one that continues to hold a special place in the family’s philanthropy. They established an endowed scholarship for students at Cape Fear Community College, and then took a further step to support a college that serves so many students in our area by attaching their name to the state-of-the-art classroom and performing arts facility at CFCC now known as the Allan & Laura Wilson Humanities & Fine Arts Center (the Wilson Center).

The Wilson Center is a 159,000-square foot facility that boasts a modern design with classic theater appeal, with Downtown Wilmington visible from the three-story lobby. While the design has been much talked about, there is much more to the Center, which also houses 25 instructional spaces including classrooms, studios and laboratories. “It’s a working and teaching facility,” said Shane Fernando, Vice President of Advancement & Arts at CFCC.

According to Fernando, students are involved in many aspects of the Center’s operations and they work on every show – both in front of house and back of house. CFCC students work alongside crews for Broadway shows and well-known artists’ performances. “They can put their classroom learning into practice,” he said.

The response to the Center has been positive, both regionally and from visitors from around the country. Since opening its doors, The Wilson Center has hosted dozens of national Broadway touring productions, and welcomed such entertainment luminaries as Gladys Knight, Jackson Browne, Diana Ross, ZZ Top, Tony Bennett, Jay Leno, and many more. The Center also has two symphonies in residence, as well as several dance companies, making it a hub for local and regional programming as well.

“Looking at the big picture, this was a good opportunity,” Wilson said. “We’ve been looking forward to the Center being here. And we believe that Cape Fear Community College is one of the finest assets the region has.”

“The Wilsons have shown a long-time interest in and passion for educational efforts. This is just another component of their ongoing generosity,” said Fernando.

“We looked at this situation and thought about what we could do to share with all of Southeastern North Carolina,” Wilson said. “We want this to be a thank you to our friends and loyal customers throughout the years. We want everyone who shopped with us over the years to know that they helped make this possible.”   

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