As far back as David Wilder can remember, education, backed by hard work, has been the thread that has guided his life. “I always knew that education was the key to success, and that hard work could get that education for me,” Wilder says.
Born in 1943 in Pampa to David Cleo Wilder, a construction worker, and his wife, Virgie, a housekeeper, the family moved to Amarillo when Wilder was three. He attended Amarillo public schools, graduating from Amarillo High with honors in 1961. During his high school career, he balanced academics with sports while working after basketball practice at Fabric Mart on Sixth Street. In the summers, he worked construction. He continued his education at Amarillo College while working at the Donut Stop before class and serving as manager-trainer of the AC basketball team and running track. Junior college accolades included the Badger Award, Outstanding Male Student his sophomore year, and Outstanding Sigma Alpha Delta member.
Receiving the Eldon Durrett Scholarship was instrumental in David being able to attend West Texas State University. “The scholarship was for $200 and paid for my first semester tuition,” Wilder recalls. To save money, he lived at home and carpooled during those two years at WT.
A member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, he received his BBA in Accounting in May 1965. During those two years, he worked nights in the bookkeeping department of American National Bank in Amarillo.
David and Myrt Bryant were married in 1965 and celebrated more than 50 years together until her death in 2016. They had two sons, Brian David, who is employed by WalMart Distribution in California, and Scott, who attended WT and graduated from Texas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in restaurant management, who is employed by Dell in Dallas. He has two grandsons, Kolten and Wesley. Brian’s son, Kolten, received his master’s degree from WTAMU and is employed by Williams Real Estate in Amarillo.
David Wilder served six years with the Texas National Guard, receiving an Honorable Discharge in 1971. After graduation and until 1973, Wilder was employed as controller by Taylor-Evans Farm Store where he was in charge of the merger with Diamond Shamrock in 1971. Two years later, he assisted his boss, Doc Potts, in purchasing the First National Bank of Plainview, TX. During his time at First National Bank, Wilder served as vice president-cashier, president and vice chairman of the board, and senior trust officer. “The bank grew from $10 million to $140 million during that time,” he says. Wilder retired from banking in 1998, and at the age of 55, he started P&E Leasing, a commercial real estate and investment business. Wilder has received extensive professional recognition for his talents, including past president and director of the American Institute of Banking and chair of the Plainview Housing Authority.
His community service in impressive and continues to this day. He has served as treasurer of the United Way for 46 years, has been instrumental in the renovation of the historic Fair Theatre, the community Partner of the Central Plains Rainbow Room, Wee Care Child Care Center, served as financial chairman of the First United Methodist Church, and as president of the Hale County Hospital Authority. He was co-chair of Kidsville, a playground built in Plainview by volunteers. He also served as director of the WT Alumni Association and was on the WTAMU University Foundation Board.
More recently, the Wilders, along with Nicki Logan, spearheaded a drive to raise more than $2.5 million for the expansion of Covenant Healthcare-Plainview. Wilder also serves as the trustee of the philanthropic James and Eva Mayer Foundation.
Along with community service, Wilder also has received a notable list of honors over his lifetime. These honors include the 2008 WTAMU Distinguished Alumnus, 2005 Amarillo College Distinguished Alumnus, the 1980 Plainview Man of the Yea, the 1997-99 Roy McClung Service Award, and Distinguished Benefactor of Wayland Baptist University. Also, in 1992, the Caring Institute of Washington, D.C. selected Wilder as one of 18 Texans to be considered for the prestigious National Caring Award.
In the 1990s, David and Myrt established scholarship endowments at West Texas A&M University, Amarillo College, and Wayland Baptist University. Currently, 15 scholarships are awarded each year. In addition, the Wilders have built two varsity baseball fields at WTAMU and WBU.
My college education was very important in furthering my career. To better our society and ensure the future growth of the United States, we have to educate our students and future workers. The support of my professors, and especially the Eldon Durrett Scholarship, encouraged Myrt and me to help other students complete their educations.– David Wilder
Wilder adds that because he worked his way through college, paying all of his education expenses as his parents were unable to help, he and Myrt appreciated the effort it took to earn their degrees. The Wilders have funded 128 scholarships (with an estimated value of $134,000) to students in the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business alone. When his wife died in 2016, Wilder established new endowments for female athletes in volleyball and softball.
“The Lord blessed us greatly, so we decided to give back to our colleges and church,” Wilder says. “My favorite saying is ‘Hard work covers up or overcomes mistakes we make.’ We love giving back what the Lord has given us.”
“Being a poor boy built character and ambition,” he muses. “I always had a goal to do better than my dad. My parents instilled in us children to be respectful of others, make good grades, be good citizens and…be very polite,” he laughs.