Benna Wilde has many wonderful memories from the past 21 years as the wife of President Harold Wilde. Her reflections on those years begin with her first visit to Naperville as part of a presidential search interview. “(Trustee) Rita Harvard arranged to give me a tour of Naperville and I fell in love with it,” she says. “I was thinking that I really hope they pick us because this is a great place.”
When the Wildes moved to Naperville, two of their three children (Elizabeth Ty and Henry) were still living at home and the eldest (Anna) was about to leave for her first year in college. “This has been our family’s home ever since—and what a great place to bring up your kids,” she said. Both daughters were eventually married on the campus, special days that further blurred the boundaries between the family’s life and the College.
As Benna talks about the couple’s years on campus, “we couldn’t have done what we do without the help of so many,” she says. Among those, the first person to come to mind is Steve Bergerson, who served as Board chair from 1992 to 2001. “He’s so trusted and a friend, a guide—we wouldn’t be here without him,” she says. “None of the things that have happened the past 21 years would have happened without Rita and Steve and the rest of the Board of Trustees, staff and faculty, the cabinet, the alumni and so many generous supporters.”
Also special to the couple are thousands of students they met and nurtured. “We love the students—so many young people gave us so much joy,” Benna says. “It’s always bittersweet when every spring, we send off the kids we love. And Hal’s paternal role was natural for him and we’re pleased the students interpreted it that way.”
What does the future hold for the Wildes? Benna will continue her role as managing director of Prince Charitable Trusts in Chicago, an organization she joined in 1995. But there will be more time for long walks, traveling and grandchildren. Their everyday life will be based in Chicago where they’ve always enjoyed music, dance and theatre—especially productions featuring alumni. “For us, it feels like the right time to move on. But a big part of us will always think of North Central College as home.”