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Thursday, May 01, 2014

Ian H. Wilson, 90

Ian H Wilson, a former Westport resident, died April 28 at his home in San Rafael, Calif. He was 90.

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Ian H. Wilson: futurist. Contributed photo

His family said few who saw this lanky Englishman perform on the stage of the Westport Community Theatre would have suspected he spent long hours strategically planning next moves for one of the country’s major corporations.  More importantly, he would do so from a unique vantage point: the future.

A quarter century-plus resident of Westport between 1954 and 1980, he was an internationally recognized authority on scenario planning and produced several books on the subject.  Among these were “The New Rules of Corporate Conduct: Rewriting the Social Charter” and “The Scenario Planning Handbook.”

Born an only child in Harrow, England, he became exposed to a broader, global perspective early on. His father’s career as an electrical engineer brought the family to Ceylon for two years.

His grandfather, a respected educator in Scotland – a man who traveled frequently to North America to spread the gospel of the Scotch ballad—no doubt stirred his grandson’s curiosity about the perceived more progressive new world.

In time Ian sought a degree in history, classics and philosophy at St. John’s College, Oxford. World War II, however, interrupted his studies. Enlisting in the British Army, he entered the signal core and rose to the rank of captain.

This eventually placed him at the invasion of Normandy and on a field-of-battle stretcher, when he was wounded while climbing a tree in France to signal a message to troops.

Following his military service, Ian then returned to complete his MA at Oxford, where he became active in the university’s theater program.

While working as an organization and methods consultant for Imperial Chemical Industries, he met a young Westport woman. Page Hedden had come abroad to expand her Antioch College education by attending the Theatre School of Bradford Yorkshire.

Soon after her return to the states she received a letter from the young man she’d begun to date – one containing a proposal of marriage.  On St. Patrick’s Day 1951, the couple wed at St. Paul’s on the Green Episcopal Church in Norwalk.

The Wilsons then returned to England, where a year later Page gave birth to the first of five daughters at St. Mary’s Hospital in London on the very day Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne.

When the new family returned to the United States in 1954, they took up residence in Westport.  While Page raised children and honed her crafts as actor and puppeteer, Ian began a 25-year career with General Electric. 
He in time became a member of the company’s strategic planning staff and established the pioneering corporate “futures studies” group. Stephen Millet in his article for Strategy & Leadership, “The Future of Scenarios,” writes:

“Scenarios provided a context for the development of long-term corporate strategic plans and near-term contingency plans ... Wilson led perhaps the first major corporate scenario project at GE that produced in 1971 four alternative scenarios of global and U.S. economic and socio-political conditions.”

Although Ian commuted daily to New York City for his work, he still found time to involve himself locally.  Both his acting and directing at the Westport Community Theatre received rave reviews.

In addition, he served as director of the Westport Unitarian congregation’s church school, as president of Staples Parent-Teachers Association of Westport Schools and as chair of the Citizens’ Commission on Long-Range School Goals. 

For years, Ian volunteered as well with United Way of America, serving on its Environmental Scan and Strategic Process Task Force.

After his marriage to Page ended in divorce, Ian relocated to California. There he acted as a senior management consultant with SRI International from 1980-1993. 

Following his tenure at SRI, he then pursued a career in research, writing and consulting as the principal of Wolf Enterprises.

During this time he also functioned as senior editor of Planning Review, the Journal of the Planning Forum and served on the boards of other professional journals, namely, Long Range Planning, Technological Forecasting and Social Change and On the Horizon.

In 1994, Ian married the poet and writer, Adrianne Marcus at Rodef Shalom Synagogue in San Rafael, where the couple took up residence.

Adrianne and Ian pursued their passions for travel, fine food, supporting and collecting the work of local and international artists and, in later years, for breeding and raising dogs,—at first wolf hybrids and then Wind Hounds. 

In 2009, Adrianne succumbed to cancer, as did Ian’s daughter, the New York photographer Ellen Wilson, the following year.

For a decade, Ian battled the Parkinson’s decease that eventually took his life.

He is survived by Page, his four remaining daughters: Rebecca Armstrong and her husband John of Madison, Conn., Dori Wilson and her husband George Ostasiewicz of Norwalk, Holly Luce and her husband Jim of Denville, N.J., and Alexandra Wilson and her husband Terry Dawson of Austin, Texas; his step-daughters, Stacey Marcus and her husband Chris Ariel of Santa Rosa, Calif., Shelby Marcus of Paris, France and Sarah Marcus and her husband Jim Hoffman of Portland, Ore., as well as 15 grandchildren and a trio of wind hounds: Misty, Mercury and Winter.

“Through them all, Ian now becomes part of the future he so long labored to let influence our present,” his family said.


Posted 05/01/14 at 05:54 PM  Permalink


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