John Wilson is a longtime supporter of the School of Social Welfare, having committed to one of the largest planned gifts in the school’s history to promote social justice in the school and at UC Berkeley. Both John and his wife Beclee Wilson have fought for social and racial justice throughout their long careers and deep involvement at UC Berkeley.
John earned a PhD in Economics at the University of Michigan and then joined the Yale University faculty where he established the Urban Economics Institute as well as the Urban Fellows Program. He became an early participant in the War on Poverty in the Johnson Administration, was Assistant Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in the Nixon Administration and worked closely with Senator Ted Kennedy in this role.
He also served as Chair of the White House Task Force on Welfare Reform and Director of the Welfare Reform Planning Commission. His mandate was to design a new national Agency for Social Welfare. But when social welfare reform failed to pass Congress by a narrow margin, John resigned from public office.
Rather than returning to Yale, John and Beclee moved to California after John was recruited by Aaron Wildavsky, founding dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, to join the faculty. He also developed the Bank of America’s worldwide economics-finance team, a job held for 25 years until retiring as Executive Vice President and Chief Economist.
In the 1980s, John was deeply involved in the northern California Interfaith Council on Economic Justice and chaired the Bay Area Task Force on Ethics and Social Justice sponsored by the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) and other Bay Area universities.
More recently, John taught a graduate seminar on “Economics and Social Justice” in the Department of International Studies “Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution” and subsequently was invited by then-Dean Jeffrey Edleson to teach a seminar on “Idea of America and Social Justice” in the School of Social Welfare and to broaden the school’s reach on social justice issues. John has continued to help build the social justice platform under the leadership of Dean Linda Burton.