Proviso High School mathematics teacher Wilson A. Law in 1929.

The mystery of a stock account worth several hundred thousand dollars, found by the finance department at Proviso Township School District High School District 209, has finally been unraveled, Finance Director Todd Drafall told the D209 school board.  

The account was a 1978 gift from a former math teacher, donated in the form of stock shares to Proviso East High School, to be used for scholarships, Drafall said.

Wilson A. Law gave the school a total of 1,792 shares of Massachusetts Investors Trust Inc., worth around $17,149.44, Drafall said. Over 35 years, that account has grown to more than $350,000. 

Drafall told the board the account was a bit of a mystery until paperwork detailing the gift was uncovered. 

According to a letter dated March 30, 1978 to Gerda Dahl, then secretary and director of publicity for Proviso East, the money was to be added to an existing fund “to assist deserving students from Proviso Township High Schools (East Campus) to attend the college or university of their choice,” Law wrote.

“I am happy to make this gift as partial payment to the good people who so kindly helped me through my own years of high school and college,” Law wrote.

“During my 50 years of teaching, I had the personal pleasure of helping more than 20 students in their efforts to prepare for life work,” Law added. “I regret now that I was not more generous in my younger years.”

Law wanted the school to ask recipients to donate back to the scholarship fund when they had graduated, to keep it going. He also suggested four-year, no-interest loans be made from the fund. 

But the district can’t keep the stock. The problem with the stock shares, Drafall said, was the district cannot directly own stocks as a taxing body. District money is invested, but by the Proviso Township Treasurer’s Office. Drafall recommended cashing out the stocks and placing the money into a legally acceptable fund for scholarships. Because Proviso East has no foundation, the money has to be converted, he said. 

At the Jan. 14 board meeting, no decision was made as to how the scholarships would be awarded. 

Who was Wilson A. Law?

Mr. Law taught mathematics at the high school for 28 years, from 1928 to 1956, according to his donation letter. He then taught in Harrison, Ohio for six years. 

“I was retired in 1966 after completing 50 years of teaching without missing a single day,” Law wrote. 

Wilson Alphonso Law Jr. was born in 1891 in Port Townsend, Wash., according to his relative LucyJo Garibay of Olney, Tex. He taught in Macon Co., Missouri before moving to Maywood in the 1920s. He is listed as living in a boarding house in Maywood in the 1930 and 1940 U.S. Census. 

At age 49 in 1940, Law married longtime Latin teacher at the high school, Helen Masters, then 46. She grew up in Boone, Ind. The couple bought a house in Maywood in the 300 block of 2nd Avenue. Masters died in 1972 in Cincinnati, according to Garibay.

Law appeared a couple of times in the Forest Park Review during the 1940s and 50s. He was the Proviso East faculty sponsor for the Hi-Y club, a boy’s club for high school students, affiliated with the YMCA. In November 1945, Law was mentioned as sponsoring a “Canteen” event at Proviso East for 250 returning servicemen, who attended a football game against Oak Park and River Forest High School. Although the Nov. 22, 1945 article doesn’t mention it, Proviso East students suffered many casualties during World War II. A total of 192 Proviso graduates died during WWII, many of them members of the National Guard 192nd Tank Battalion on the Bataan Peninsula, in the Philippines. Those who survived the historic Bataan Death March spent the war as POWs of the Japanese. Bataan was liberated in February 1945. 

Law is mentioned again at his retirement in 1956.

In his wife’s name, Law also established two other scholarships, The Master Sisters Scholarship Fund at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and the Arthur B. Masters-John A. Fergusson Scholarship Fund at Purdue University. 

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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