Honorary alumna and life trustee Esther Armstrong, widow of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, department
store owner Robert Armstrong, died Dec. 1, 2002, in Cedar Rapids. She was 99.
Her top priority was her family, which included two daughters who attended Cornell, Mary
Armstrong Dusek '50 and Esther Armstrong Cooper '52, both deceased. She also was devoted to
St. Paul's United Methodist Church and several other interests "that demonstrate Christian principles."
She joined the Cornell Board of Trustees in 1958. She was named national Methodist
mother of the year in 1950 and Iowa mother of the year in 1960.
She is survived by two daughters, 11 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.
Cecil Thomas, former building and grounds superintendent and consultant, died Nov. 19,
2002, in West Des Moines, Iowa. He was 95.
He was building and grounds superintendent from 1956 to 1973 and consultant from 1979 to
1991. Cornell's annual Small-Thomas Lecture Series was named in honor of Thomas, an honorary
alumnus, and his wife, June, who preceded him in death. The lecture series was conceived and
funded by Richard Small '50, past chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees, and his wife, honorary
alumna and trustee Norma Thomas Small, daughter of Cecil and June.
Thomas is survived by three other children, including Jim Thomas '59 and Bob Thomas '68;
eight grandchildren, including Michael Burke '83, Michelle Haynes Burris '88, Sean Thomas '96,
and Victoria Thomas '98; seven great-grandchildren; and a brother.
Gilbert "Gil" Wilson
Former men's basketball coach Gilbert "Gil" Wilson, who led Cornell to two conference championships
in the 1950s, died Dec. 16, 2002, in Charleston, Ill. He was 86.
Wilson coached Cornell for six seasons, from 1951-57. His teams won Midwest Conference
titles in 1953 and 1955. He also was an associate professor and director of health and physical education
Before coming to Cornell, Wilson taught and coached high school basketball, first at
Marshalltown, which won a conference crown, then at City High in Iowa City. The Little Hawks
won two conference titles and the 1946 state championship under Wilson.
Wilson retired in 1986 from Eastern Illinois University. He had joined the health education
department in 1962.
He is survived by his wife, Verna; two sons; a daughter; seven grandchildren; three sisters; and
several nieces and nephews.