Robert Benjamin Wiley Community Charter School"Developing Scholars and Leaders"
Mr. Robert Benjamin Wiley was born on February 7, 1945 in Powhatan Point, Ohio. He was the son of the late Arthur Wiley, Sr. and Clara Luckett Wiley. Robert Benjamin's hometown was a small farming and mining community and his father was a coal-miner. His father died before Mr. Wiley was ten and his mother raised Ben and his eight brothers and sisters. Mr. Wiley often spoke of how his town pulled together to help one another, and he learned from his family at an early age the importance of looking out for one another.
Mr. Wiley graduated from Powhatan High School in 1963, where he was President of the senior class, selected in the 1963 Ohio Schoolboy Class A Basketball Player of the Year; and led his high school baseball team to a state title. He graduated from Gannon University on a basketball scholarship with a Bachelor's degree in business administration and later earned his Master's degree in urban systems at Gannon.
In 1969, Ben was recruited to become the Greater Erie Community Action Committee’s (GECAC) executive director at the tender age of 24. He was a civic leader who helped transform GECAC into a large nonprofit agency. Under his leadership, the agency grew to a staff of more than 400 that annually serves a clientele of more than 50,000 people ranging from preschoolers to the elderly. He also served as the chief executive of the Greater Erie Economic Development Corporation (GEEDC).
In 1986, Mr. Wiley was inducted into the Gannon University Basketball Hall of Fame. Two years later, he received both the National Lewis Hine Award and Gannon’s Distinguished Pennsylvanian Award, which is initiated by the William Penn Society of Gannon University. He received the 2000 National John D. Whisman Vision Award from the Development District Association of Appalachia and was awarded the 2002 Liberty Bell Award by the Erie County Bar Association in recognition of community service that has strengthened the American system of freedom under law.
Ben served on the Gannon University board of trustees from 1990 to 1993. In 1994, he worked on his friend Tom Ridge’s successful campaign for the state governor. His early friendship with Tom Ridge led these two men to partner on many “dreams” for their community. Their early shared vision on education grew into a force that changed Pennsylvania when their collaboration resulted in charter school legislation which has provided for a choice in education for children throughout the commonwealth. Mr. Wiley then led a community effort to develop and secure a charter to begin the GECAC Community Charter School. Mr. Wiley insisted that “COMMUNITY"; be included in the name of the school since his life belief was in the power of the community to change the lives of children. Although in his lifetime he resisted efforts to name the school after him, the overwhelming sentiment of the board of trustees, as well as the general Erie community was that naming “his school; after him would be a continuing reminder of the quality of character that all of us should strive to develop.
Biographies of Mr. Wiley provide evidence of his legacy through the awards he has won, the organizations that he has participated in, and the lives he has changed. Dr. Frank Pogue, former president of Edinboro University, was one of the people Mr. Wiley recruited to make a difference in Pennsylvania’s system of higher education. Dr. Pogue was quoted in Appalachia magazine saying: “Ben Wiley believes in education as the primary solution to poverty, crime, hate – the answer to society’s ills. Ben has a kind of magnetism that brings this community together. Racial groups, different socioeconomic groups, business leaders, ministers, you name it – he is the one person who can bring such a rainbow of people together around almost any issue.”
“To see people who don’t know and understand what they are capable of accomplishing, and to embrace them and lift their self-esteem, to see them grow in confidence, that gives me the most joy and satisfaction. That’s the difference between a bad life and a good life.”
Robert Benjamin Wiley
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character –that is the goal of TRUE EDUCATION.
Martin Luther King, Jr