Courtesy of the SDSU Foundation
The legacy of Maxine Wilcox can be found throughout the decades of her life and across the globe—from the 27 countries spanning six continents that benefited from her Christian ministry work, to a burning wreckage in Texas where she once heroically saved three lives and most recently to the South Dakota State University College of Nursing.
A true trailblazer in the field of health care, Wilcox’s unfailing selflessness and compassion impacted countless lives. With a recent gift to support SDSU, nursing students can follow in her footsteps—and those footsteps have traversed quite a journey.
Wilcox began her training as a nurse at Sioux Valley Hospital (now Sanford) School of Nursing. Following her time there, she earned her SDSU bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1954. After graduation, she wasted no time in making a worldwide difference, embarking on a globe-trotting career of ministry work. She spent years setting up hospitals, teaching nursing classes and helping others heal physically, emotionally and spiritually.
She lived up to the title of “health care hero” April 30, 1974—the day she boarded a Metro Airlines Beechcraft 99 airliner for a flight from Scholes Fields in Galveston to Houston Intercontinental Airport. The flight never made it to Houston. With 12 passengers and crew members aboard, the plane crashed shortly after takeoff. Only five survived.
Despite suffering injuries herself, Wilcox managed to pull the pilot and two other surviving passengers from the fiery rubble. Following that fateful day, she received numerous honors to recognize her bravery, including the Distinguished Service Medal—the highest award given during peacetime—and a personal letter from President Gerald R. Ford.
Wilcox went on to live a life of bold ambition and tireless philanthropy. She was named the first woman president of the Retired and Active Coast Guard Club in 1979, along with becoming the first woman to be appointed Honorary Admiral of the Texas Navy in 1981 and being nominated for the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1982. After retiring from her federal nursing position, she was involved in counseling for victims of catastrophes, aging senior citizens and troubled teens.
Though Wilcox died in March 2021, her philanthropy will still greatly impact Jackrabbits. Named a Distinguished Alumna in 1982, Wilcox was also recognized at the college’s 80th gala in 2015.
She recognized her alma mater with a significant estate gift. Her generosity will elevate the College of Nursing, which was where her journey to becoming a health care hero first began.
“The College of Nursing is grateful for the generosity of Maxine Wilcox and the impact this gift will make today and into the future with technology, scholarships, and emergency funding that helps students to achieve their goals,” said Mary Anne Krogh '85/Ph.D. '11, dean of the College of Nursing. “Friends like Maxine contribute greatly to the excellence that is SDSU Nursing.”
The estate gift will benefit student nurses through the creation of an endowed scholarship and an emergency fund to support students in the face of unique hardships. In addition, her contribution will provide significant resources to support immediate and future technology and equipment needs for the simulation and clinical skills programs. To honor Wilcox’s generosity, a simulation suite in Wagner Hall will carry her name.
As written in her obituary, “Maxine lived, laughed, learned and loved throughout her life; she never stopped.” Thanks to her gift to SDSU, Wilcox will never stop transforming lives. With her support, future Jackrabbits can build their own lifesaving legacies.