The Life School family was deeply saddened Monday when it announced the passing of the Life School founder.
Dr. Tom Wilson, 76, was known as a visionary who provided quality educational opportunities to families regardless of their ability to pay. He is also the father of the current Life School Superintendent Dr. Brent Wilson.
The charter school offered its deepest condolences to the Wilson family during this difficult time.
“More than 20 years ago, my father, Dr. Tom Wilson, founded Life School as a way to provide a tuition-free, quality education for the children of southern Dallas,” Brent stated in a press release. “He planted the seeds of hope in the lives of so many. Today and for generations to come, our students will harvest the rewards of his vision.”
He was passionate about instilling character in students and developing them into leaders. In 1998, Tom, a former pastor, opened one of the first charter schools in Dallas – Life School Oak Cliff. That first year there were 266 students and 15 staff members. Today, his legacy lives on in 10 Life Schools and more than 5,600 students in North Texas.
Tom served as the superintendent from 1998 until 2010 and was responsible for helping other educational leaders launch at least 15 other charter schools across Texas, according to his obituary.
In 2017, Tom sat down with his son for a question and answer that was published in volume four of Life School magazine. In that publication, Tom explained the initial thought of creating Life School stemmed from when two youth members were struck down by gang violence in 1993.
"Days later, I decided we needed to start a tuition-free school that provided a quality education for the children of southern Dallas," Tom answered.
Tom knew his vision would not be easy to implement, but with his faith and wife, Brenda, by his side, it sure made things easier to accomplish. Tom went on to explain that he leveraged everything his family owned for a $175,000 loan after raising $85,000 — about $250,000 was necessary to open a school.
The charter was drafted and approved by the Texas Education Agency in the spring of 1998. Five years after the two young church members were murdered, the first school opened its doors.
"We had some tough times in the early years of opening Life School, but it was so worth it," Tom stated in the magazine. "We did it for the two young men who were killed — I did it for them."
Tom went on to complete his doctorate in education at age 62 and was an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God for 55 years pastoring three churches, including Calvary Temple in Mesquite (1966-1976), Central Assembly in Austin (1976-1988), and Oaks Church in Red Oak (1988-2006).
“Today, our hearts are full of gratitude for Dr. Wilson and the strong foundation he created and the impact he made on thousands of students, staff and families,” said Life School Chief of Staff Scott Fuller. “We are proud to continue his legacy of service in our communities.”
Fuller described Tom as passionate about developing character in students. Fuller told the Daily Light that Tom often said, “Knowledge and understanding can be instilled in these young people, and it will carry them to the top of a mountain. But they will fall off a cliff if they do not have character that is able to keep them there."
"It is this philosophy which is the foundation for Life School’s mission to 'develop leaders with life skills' through strong academics, character training and partnerships with parents and the community," Fuller elaborated. "He will be deeply missed but his legacy will continue for generations to come."
The visitation for Tom will be Monday from 6—8 p.m. at Oaks Church in Red Oak. The funeral service will take place on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Oaks Church, located at 777 South Interstate 35 East Service Rd.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 49-517-1450