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“Alumni of Character” Inspired and Inspirational: Jim Wilder ’87

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We are pleased to share this article originally printed in the Harbor Day School Alumni Magazine, 2014 Edition. Jim Wilder is the son of one of our founders, Pamela Wilder.  He continues the circle of life by serving as our Board treasurer and giving of his time, talent, and treasure to New Directions for Women.

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Instilled in him by his mother, Jim has carried on strong personal and family values that include giving back to the community.

By Deb Morton

Your mom helped found New Directions for Women, but what made you decide to carry on the legacy and become involved with the organization?

In addition to being on the Board of HDS while my sister and I were students there, my mom co-founded New Directions for Women. At the time, there was incredible stigma around alcoholism , particularly for women.  And there were few alternatives for treatment for women.  Today, New Directions is one of the world’s leading chemical dependency treatment centers specifically for women, particularly for women with children and pregnant women.  Through the generosity of many individuals in the Orange County community for over three decades and the outstanding staff at New Directions, thousands of lives have been dramatically changed since 1977.  It is an honor for me to play a small part in helping New Directions improve the lives of women and their families on a daily basis.

Both of my parents were actively involved in giving back to their community.  They were also both recovering alcoholics.  Alcoholism is a family disease that affects not just those suffering from chemical dependency but also their family, friends, loved ones, and coworkers.  My involvement in New Directions is more than just continuing my mother’s legacy.  It is an opportunity for me to give back to a community that has given me so much and so freely to my family and me.

In the 10 years since I’ve been on the Board, over 500 children have lived on campus while their mother’s were receiving treatment, and 100 healthy babies have been born to mothers who were living sober in the safe confines of New Directions.   What an incredible thing to give so many children a better chance in life.  And how many children are we missing?  Way too many.  We can do more, and we will.  We are in the process of expanding our campus so that we can help more women and their families.  We recently launched a new Master Plan and a fundraising campaign that will enable us to double our capacity within the next two years.

What inspires you personally/professionally?

The greatest gifts of my life are my two children, Lynwood (3) and Constance (18 months).  They wake up every morning with excitement and sheer joy for the day ahead.  They embrace life with abundance.  They are curious and explore the world around them, testing their own limits and boundaries of those close to them.  They are filled with love and affection and not an ounce of judgment in their bodies.  They love to play and run and laugh, and if you want to join them, they’ll welcome you with open arms.  It’s like each day is a brand new gift, and it’s the greatest gift ever.  They have an incredible ability to live precisely in the moment and to make the most of each day.  They are my greatest inspiration.  I wish I could be more like them every day.

What has been the biggest challenge for you, and how did you overcome it?  

12 years ago I struggled with some of the same issues by parents struggled with and that many of the same issues my parents struggled with and that many of the women at New Directions struggle with.  I had a choice to make at that point in my life: I could continue going down the wrong path, or I could turn my life over to the care of a higher power, what I call God.  I chose the latter, and that has been the single greatest and most defining event in my life.  Finding faith in a power greater than myself and turning my life over to that power gives me the strength to walk through the challenges that come up in everyday life.  I believe a spiritual existence in some sort is critical for anyone who wants to achieve balance and success in his or her life.

Whom do you consider a person of good character and why?

            I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question. I can say that people I admire often have overcome hardship and are great leaders in their community.  Magic Johnson is a great example.  Here was a man who was on top of the world and fell to earth in a very public and painful way.  He faced incredible hardship and harsh judgment.  Today, not only is he a survivor, but he is a leader in our community.  He gives back to the inner city, he is a very successful businessman, and he is an incredible example of how positivity and faith can lead to a great and fulfilling life.  I also admire people who inspire us with positivity and hope.  Joel Osteen is one of the great teachers of our day.  His message is positive, loving, and all about keeping it in the day.  It is a recipe for good character and great success in life.

What skills or qualities did you learn at HDS that helped you achieve your success?

The incredible education with an emphasis on athletics and academic discipline I received at HDS laid a foundation for me to be successful in life.  I worked hard in school and received good grades.  That hard work, and the foundation HDS provided, helped me get into The Cate School, which helped me get into Princeton, which led to a job on Wall Street, which led to Harvard Business School and ultimately a career in Private Equity.  Now that I have a family, my definition of success has changed.  I used to be focused on getting into the best school, getting the best job, making the most money, and achieving career success.  Today, success is a more balanced concept.  I still strive to be successful in my business life, but that is now balanced with being a good father, being present for my children, being a giving member of my community, and living a faith-based life.

Allison Wilder Wiemann (’85) had to say this about her brother,

“Jim is one of the most courageous men I know. He is extremely dedicated to his family, especially his two children, Woods and CeCe, and he inspires me to be a better person each and every day.  He lives life to its fullest, and I love him dearly.  I am inspired by the time and dedication he has given to New Directions for Women, and I know our mom smiles down from heaven watching his wonderful work with their program.” 

What advice do you have for HDS students about how to become successful in business/life?

The first thing I would say is what my mom used to tell me when I was at HDS: “Anything is possible.  You can achieve anything in life if you set your mind to it.”  I believe this is true for every student at HDS.  Each and any one of us is capable of incredible things in life.  Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out what we want to do in life or how to define success.  Success comes from within.  We must decide for ourselves what is most important to us, what values we want to adhere to, and then set out on the path for achieving our goals.  There will be good days and some hard ones too.  My life has been a very bumpy road.  There has been great success and great hardship.  But if we keep close to our values and keep moving forward one day at a time, it’s wonderful how positive and fulfilling life can be.  I also think it’s important for students at high achieving schools like HDS to find balance in their life.  We put a lot of pressure on our kids, and they, in turn, put pressure on themselves.  School can be stressful, and the benefit of athletics, meditation, religion, yoga, hanging out with friends, or any endeavor that gives students a release from the stresses of excelling in school and in life is critical for long term success.

New Directions for Women is a treatment facility located in California that offers help to women of all ages, pregnant women in any trimester, and women with children.  Founded in 1977, our courageous and visionary founders asked for the help of Newport Beach Junior League members to fulfill their vision of a tranquil home-like facility that would treat women with dignity and respect. Our caring admissions counselors are available 24/7 to take your call and answer any questions you may have on getting help. Reach us by phone at 800-93-WOMEN. We can help. Stay in the loop with New Directions for Women by connecting with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.


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