In the early afternoon of May 29, 2015, Dr. Gene Merritt Wilkins passed away peacefully at the VA Hospital in San Diego, California. He was surrounded by family and attended to by the staff members of palliative care. Gene was 84 years old.
Gene was born in Philadelphia, PA on December 10, 1930. He was the only child of Merritt Oliver Wilkins and Vera Alberta Blair.
Gene graduated from Mastbaum Area Vocational/Technical School with a high school diploma in Commercial Art.
After graduating, Gene served in the Army for two years in the Counterintelligence Corps in Europe.
Gene earned a B.A. from Kutztown College and started his teaching career in 1958 in the Northern Lebanon School District, and married Shirley Mohler that same year. He later earned both a MA from Temple and a EdD from Nova University.
Gene's talents as an administrator were recognized and he was asked to write a proposal for Reading as part of a statewide community college program. Reading Area Community College was formed in 1971. Beginning with just 265 students, the college has educated more than 90,000 students and countless lives have been changed. At RACC, Gene was named Dean of Students and later Vice President of Academic Affairs, until his retirement in 1987.
Throughout his career, Gene most enjoyed working with students, especially those on the margins. He also enjoyed hearing "Yay Grandma" ring out at RACC graduations, as the college served a non-traditional student population.
In 1989, Gene married Mary Linette, one of the first employees of RACC. They lived in Millsboro, Delaware from 1989-2004, until her death in October 2004. He eventually moved to San Diego to be closer to his daughters and grandchildren.
Dr. Gene Wilkins was a devoted father who always talked so proudly about his girls. He loved sports cars, sprints and hillclimbing, and was President of the Duryea Sports Car Club and also the Pennsylvania Hillclimb Association. He always had a love for reading and learning in general and fully believed that education was a way to charter your own course in life and a stepping stone out of poverty.
Gene is survived by his daughters: Nancy Wilkins-Diehr, Shari Wilkins-Duley, Wendy Watson; and their mother, Shirley Wilkins; step-son, Thomas Linette; brother, Bennett Wilkins; 8 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.
Dr. Gene Wilkins, Doc Wilkins, GW will be sorely missed by family and friends from Delaware to California.
The family encourages signing his guestbook at Legacy.com.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Rehoboth, DE on October 25. There may also be a dedication at RACC around that time. Please contact Nancy for details on both events, 858-534-5118 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Mary J. Wilkins Scholarship Fund, which helps support single mothers in their education at Reading Area Community College.
Special thanks to the doctors and nurses at the VA Hospital palliative care San Diego, CA.
Published in Reading Eagle from June 28 to July 4, 2015