Since graduating from Goddard College’s Residential Undergraduate Program (RUP) in 1968, Donald John Willcox (BA RUP ’68) has led a life of creativity and global service, providing resources and opportunities to those less fortunate. He is a quiet hero–quiet because we don’t often see individuals like him in the news, winning Oscars or Pulitzers.
Twenty-three years ago, Donald founded the Foundation to Encourage the Potential of Disabled Persons in Thailand. Just last month, the mayor of Thailand’s 2nd largest city, Chiang Mai, presented Donald with a Certificate of Thanks for providing 40 wheelchairs to disabled persons in the area.
Donald is a true embodiment of the Goddard College mission: To advance cultures of rigorous inquiry, collaboration, and lifelong learning, where individuals take imaginative and responsible action in the world. He has, in his own words, “kept the dream alive” through his “quiet performance.” Read more about Donald below.
“As a Goddard student during the late 1960s, I found the educational atmosphere liberating, flexible and challenging.
“For me, by inviting students to aggressively participate in forming Goddard policy, represented the pinnacle of administrative student trust. The mantra of Goddard was ‘yes’ at a time when the mantra of most traditional education was ‘no’ accompanied by a long list of ‘do’s and don’ts’.
“Perhaps what I remember as the most challenging was trying to explain the open mindedness of a Goddard education to traditionalists. At that time self evaluation and student/teacher equality were still viewed by countless critics as threatening, dangerous, or even anti-American. Those were the flag waving days of aggression in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It was a life affirming experience to be a part of Goddard when the world around us was often flushing itself down the toilet.”
After graduating from Goddard, Donald spent many years writing craft, design, and folk art books for American and Scandinavian publishers. He lived eight years on a small island in Denmark during much of the Vietnam war.
He returned to the U.S. early in the 1980s and took up residence in Appalachia North Carolina where he explored passive solar house building, ran a small personalized overseas tour business, taught at both Haystack Mountain and Penland School of Crafts, and wrote and published handmade poetry books.
As a guest of the World Crafts Council representative of Nepal, he spent eight years as the founder of an American 501-C-3 Nepal-based NGO which provided educational sponsorship to about 150 Nepali and Tibetan children in need.
He then moved to Thailand during the Maoist violence in Nepal and set up a legally registered Thai Foundation to support the myriad needs of northern Thailand’s neglected disabled persons.
Today, his Thai foundation, the Foundation To Encourage The Potential Of Disabled Persons, is in its 23rd year and continues to provide free mobility aids, home visits, and health services wherever needed. The foundation is a non-profit and accepts donations.
Donald lives in the countryside surrounded by rice paddies, cows, farmer neighbors, and a loving Thai family. His daily work language is Thai.