Golden Gopher and Former MLB catcher Dan Wilson Earns Degree
Excelling at the plate in major league baseball takes major league discipline. It's being self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses; knowing when to swing for the fences and when not to swing at all. Sometimes, it ends in a walk. Discipline is the same trait that can make a student successful in the classroom, and, like baseball, sometimes ends in a walk.
Dan Wilson has used discipline to excel in both environments. After a successful 14-year professional baseball career, Wilson returned to college and recently received his bachelor of science degree in applied business and IT studies through the University of Minnesota College of Continuing Education. Though he drew hundreds of walks during his time as an all-star catcher in the pros, none were as significant as the walk he took this spring at his graduation commencement ceremony.
"It was important to me that I finish my degree, and I wanted to do it at the school where I started," said Wilson. "I wanted to show my kids the importance of education, and (commencement) will be a great experience to share with my family."
After spending 12 years with the Seattle Mariners organization, Wilson is now a happy resident of the Emerald City where he is an active volunteer in the community. When Wilson decided to return to school, he initially figured he would need to transfer his credits somewhere closer to home to complete his degree. But he has a special affinity for the University of Minnesota, and after looking into opportunities, he discovered that the College of Continuing Education offered online courses that would allow him to earn his B.S. and continue supporting the maroon and gold.
"I was connected with Amy Brewster (a CCE academic adviser), and she did a wonderful job," said Wilson. "I started this return to school four or five years ago, and things had changed a lot since I first went to college. Everything is very individualized, and she helped me understand what I needed to do in order to complete my major and get it approved."
Brewster worked with Wilson to develop a course plan that would allow him to take most of his outstanding credit requirements online. He knew online courses were not ideal for everyone, but the flexibility they provided worked with his busy life as a father, husband and active community citizen. In the end, he loved the experience the Web-based courses provided.
Wilson hopes to leverage what he learned through his applied business courses to start a nonprofit with his wife aimed at helping youth in the Seattle area, but maybe not right away. As a father of four, he's enjoying the rare opportunity to spend some time with his family right now.
He came to the University of Minnesota in 1987, the same year he was drafted for the first time by a major league club. But Wilson was interested in playing college ball and studying engineering. The University of Minnesota offered a great chance to do both, and with some Gopher baseball players departing, gave Wilson a chance to contribute immediately on the diamond. The pros came calling again in 1990, and this time, he bit. Wilson was selected by the Reds with the seventh overall pick.
"I had already done three years in the engineering program, but it was going to take five, and I jumped at the opportunity to go pro," said Wilson. "But I'm glad I got the chance to finish what I started at Minnesota. It was important to me and my family that I finish my degree."
The whole Wilson family was on hand to watch Dan walk at commencement, and it was a homecoming for another member of the family, too. His wife, Annie, received her bachelor of science degree from the University of Minnesota in 1991. After walking, Wilson took his kids to watch his former college team take the field at the Metrodome that afternoon. Wilson was glad to show off the campus and team to his kids.
"I've got to get the maroon and gold going in their blood," said Wilson.