Sampson Vryling Stoddard Wilder (1780-1865)
S.V.S. Wilder was born in Massachusetts and began working at the age of 14. His father, a man of renowned energy and honesty, died when Wilder was a boy, and the son was apprenticed to a family friend who helped him find his way. While working in Boston as a young man, Wilder was the first person in the United States to be vaccinated (he was the only one willing to undergo the procedure). A man with a reputation for incredible industry and strong religious beliefs, he spent his middle years in Paris as a silk merchant. He returned to America a success and built a large home in his hometown of Bolton. Wilder then dedicated himself to charitable causes, including the building of churches and colleges, Amherst among them.
Mr. Wilder served as a trustee from 1824 until 1841, when he resigned because he could no longer support the College financially at the level he wanted. He was a man who believed in devoting himself to a cause to his fullest. In his service as a trustee, he managed the Charity Fund. When an auditor from the state arrived in Amherst in 1824 to assess the viability of the College, Wilder wrote check after check to guarantee that open pledges to the Charity Fund would be fulfilled. The auditor, furious and frustrated, said he had not come to raise money for Amherst. Wilder's willingness to ensure that the College was solvent saved the day and Amherst's existence.
In a letter to one of his sisters written in 1801, he said, "Remember that as nothing in this life is to be secured without labor, so the weight and invaluable treasures of erudition are only to be acquired by exertions vigorously made and unremittingly continued." Toward the end of his life, Mr. Wilder wrote 67 maxims addressed to his grandsons about how to live an honorable life. His principles helped to shape the College's earliest years.