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NewsSep 14, 2020

Lesley mourns passing of Jim Wilbur, longtime head of Threshold Program

President Janet L. Steinmayer says Wilbur ‘reveled in helping students, alumni and parents overcome challenges and celebrate accomplishments’

Jim Wilbur smiling

Last Friday, President Janet L. Steinmayer informed the Lesley community of the terrible news of the death of Jim Wilbur, the longtime, transformational head of the university’s Threshold Program. Her message to the community appears below in its entirety.

It is with the deepest sadness that I share with you that Jim Wilbur, who retired as Director of Threshold in 2016 after 25 years with the Program, passed following a heart attack.

Under Jim’s leadership, Threshold launched over 600 graduates into lives that significantly surpassed expected levels of achievement in living, working and well-being. His work at Threshold encompassed the multi-million dollar renovation of the Lara Winn Lewis ’05 Administration Building, Maren K. Hitz ’85 Alumni Center, Wilbur House, and Kris House into a mini-campus for Threshold, the creation of the signature Alumni Center to support graduates throughout their lives, and the development of enhanced employment resources for Threshold students and alumni. Jim worked with the staff to ensure that the program provided both academic and social opportunities and created a sense of home, a feeling of security, and a path to accomplishment.

By far, Jim’s greatest legacy will be the profound role he played in so many lives. He reveled in helping students, alumni and their parents overcome challenges and celebrate accomplishments, with his signature sense of humor and joy for life. Generations of students received his guidance, at all times, before and after his retirement. Emblematic of his impact, at his retirement party in 2016, hundreds of students and alumni spontaneously stormed the dance floor, surrounding him in a joyous tribute to his warmth, his caring and his loving spirit.

On a personal note, my son Ben and I are among the people whose lives were profoundly changed by Jim. Jim was the person who recruited Ben to Threshold and made him feel welcomed by this community. Jim loved to tell the story of how he was there for Ben and his friends when they just wanted to come into his office and let off steam. And Jim was there when I came to Lesley to welcome me.

This sudden loss of a dear member of our community is difficult. For faculty and staff in need of support, please contact the Employee Assistance Program at 1-800-854-1446, or reach out to a colleague or community member you feel comfortable speaking to. For students and alumni in need of support, please contact Ernst Vanbergeijk, Director of the Threshold Program, at 617-349-8188 or evanberg@lesley.edu, or Dr. William Mitchell, the Threshold Program’s Clinical Consultant, at william.mitchell@childrens.harvard.edu, or reach out to a peer or community member you feel comfortable speaking to.

We will also be sharing information about arrangements when we receive it. The family has asked that anyone who wishes to honor Jim’s life and impact consider making a donation to the Jim Wilbur Memorial Fund for Threshold. You may do so here.

We will come together to celebrate Jim’s life and memorialize this very special person as soon as we can. Our thoughts, and hearts, go to Tim McNeill, Jim’s life partner for 30 years, to his family, to his devoted colleagues and friends, and to the entire Threshold community. The joy Jim brought to all of us will be with us, and inspire us, forever.