UAA Student Spotlight: Tim Wilson, History

By: Staff   Sep 3, 2010

He will graduate in December 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in history and a minor in creative writing; he plans to write of growing up in Africa and teach history

Imagine going out for your daily run and having a group of Colobus Columbus monkey like those Tim Wilson grew up around in Africamonkeys gathered to meet you and follow you through the forest. Tim Wilson experienced just that as a boy living in Kijabe, Kenya by the Great Rift Valley in East Africa.

Tim’s parents moved from America to Africa in the 1950s and stayed there until the 1990s doing a variety of missionary and social work.

Tim was born there with double club feet. His toes were curled to touch his heels and his feet folded to touch his ankles. The medical procedure used by the doctors in Africa to fix club feet was the method that hadn’t been used in America since the 1920s – it involved repeatedly breaking ad recasting his bones. While in junior high, Tim heard a story about an Olympic runner born with club feet who ran until his feet corrected. So Tim decided to give that route a try and he started running.

It was during those runs when he headed out alone into the rainforest along the same path at the same time every day that he saw the Colobus monkeys. They were always there waiting for him. As he ran he could see their bright, white faces that stood out against the rest of their black bodies as they followed him in the trees along his jogging path. Tim says the Colobus were normally very shy because they were so sought after by hunters, but seemed to understand he wasn’t a threat. “As they just chattered away while following me, I had the feeling they were making fun of me, but how do you know?”

After about five years of running and repeatedly pulling ligaments in his foot his doctor told him he had to stop. He was told that if he stopped running he might be able to walk when he is 50 years old. Thankfully, he is still walking and he doesn’t even have a limp anymore.

“Chronic pain is not so bad because you get used to it – unless you talk about it,” Tim says with an absent glance down to his feet.

Tim moved to America when he was 19 years old. Initially starting at a school in Tennessee, he took a variety of college courses over the years in a variety of subjects; from accounting to business to waste water treatment. In his twenties he worked as a youth pastor and in the years since published several articles and gave many presentations about the differences in Christian beliefs.

Tim held a variety of jobs throughout his years; he even owned a UAA Student Spotlight on Tim Wilson, a History majorsuccessful trucking company in the South for about 10 years before selling it and moving to Washington State to try his hand in the shipping business. He also started a family and has two sons.

“When I first arrived in America, I knew only one thing: Africa. I talked about it a lot. Then I started to feel like I was talking about it too much, so I stopped talking about Africa at all for about 20 years.”

But when Tim realized his two sons had grown up without learning about the amazing country he was born in, he took them on a trip to Kenya in 2004. He hadn’t spoken Swahili in over 30 years and at first his dialect was rusty but within a few days he was chatting away like he had never left.

Tim will graduate from UAA in December 2010 with a B.S. in history and a minor in creative writing.  He says he enjoyed coming to college and immersing himself in the educational experience. “I thought I’d feel odd being this old codger around all these kids, but I really made a lot of friends. I felt accepted across the board.”

He says he greatly enjoyed the history department and one of the best gifts he ever got was from creative writing and literary arts professor David Onofrychuk who encouraged him to turn one of his stories about Africa into a book. Tim did just that. He finished it and is now in the process of seeking a publisher for his novel titled Worthless People.

Tim plans to spend his future years as a writer and history professor.