KSU’s senior ‘gentle giant’ remembered


Terell Wilson, a senior applied communications major, sits on the steps of Cinecittá Studios, a film production studio in Rome, Italy, on Feb. 27, 2014.

Madeleine Winer

Terell Wilson’s naturally caring nature went beyond his infectious laugh and warm smile.

“The night before he passed, he called me and said I’m going to the store do you want anything?,” Wilson’s sister, Monica Van Dyke, recalled. “He kept saying ‘That’s it?’ Anything else?’ He made sure he took care of everybody.”

The next morning, when Van Dyke and her five siblings learned of their brother’s death, they found five bags filled with treats he got at the store the night before.

“To me he was everything,” Van Dyke said. “He was the youngest of the six kids. He was our baby.”

Wilson, a senior applied communications major at Kent State’s Stark campus, died last Friday at his Akron apartment. The Summit County Medical Examiner’s office said Wilson had an enlarged heart but the cause of death is still unknown. Wilson studied abroad with Kent State’s Florence program last semester, which was the first time he had ever left his hometown of Akron.

“He didn’t want a mediocre life,” Van Dyke said. “He wanted more than to go to work and go home.”

Wilson attended Garfield Heights High School in Akron and received his GED a few years later. Van Dyke said he started at Kent State soon after.

“He decided one day that he was going to change his life. He wanted to do something but didn’t know what. He wanted more and he stood out,” she said. “I want people to remember that you can do anything you want to do.”

Wilson is survived by his his grandmother, his father, his five siblings and his children, two 10-year-old twin daughters and a 10-year-old son.

Van Dyke said her favorite memories of her brother are his passion for family, his love for learning, and his love of coffee and cooking.

“He’d always cook barbecue out on the weekends,” Van Dyke said. “Everything you want would be there. I would call and ask what I needed to bring and he’d say ‘just bring yourself.”

Andres Kishimoto, a senior electronic media production major who was Wilson’s roommate in Florence, also remembered coming home and smelling his roommates cooking. He said Wilson would always have an espresso doppio—double espresso—before going to class.

Kishimoto said in the four months he knew Wilson, he learned a lot from him and from his example to appreciate all he had.

“He was a big person you know. He was like a gentle giant,” Kishimoto said. “He always said this phrase ‘There’s bigger fish to fry,’ like you shouldn’t worry about the small stuff.”

Kishimoto said the news of Wilson’s death affected not only those who studied abroad with him but also those who knew him in the College of Communication and Information.

“I am heartbroken. Terell was a gentle giant and a great soul. He overcame enormous odds to accomplish all the things he did in his too-short life,” former CCI dean Stanley Wearden, who is now Senior Vice President and Provost at Columbia College Chicago, said in an email. “And despite all the obstacles and difficulties, he never became hardened. He was a constant source of love and wonder. This is a terrible loss for the world.”

Van Dyke said Wilson was a leader who showed love not only for the Kent State community but for all those he met.

“The impact he had left a void for all of us,” Van Dyke said. “What do I do with all the love I had for him now? Where do I put it?”

Services will be held this Friday at 1 p.m. at Stewart & Calhoun Funeral Home at 529 W. Thornton St. in  Akron. Interment will be at Mt. Peace Cemetery. The funeral home is open for freinds from 12 p.m. until time of service. Procession will form and condolences may be sent to 1246 Welton Ave., Akron, OH 44306. 

Watch the tribute video below created by Andres Kishimoto.

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].