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The Gregor Mendel Scholarship will be an annual scholarship awarded to **one or more nonprofit 501(c)(3) Chicago-focused entities whose missions best exemplify the spirit, perseverance, commitment to excellence, and humanity of Lt Col (Ret) Theodore “TURTLE” Wilson. Each candidate entity and it’s criteria for selection has been carefully vetted by the TEF board members on the basis of: 

  • Demographics: from under-represented and under-resourced communities in the Chicago area
  • Financial need
  • Willingness for higher education
  • Leadership and Teamwork
  • Thirst for continued achievement
  • Commitment to “pay it forward” mentality

With time, it is our desire and intent for this Gregor Mendel Scholarship to evolve into a TEF unique effort involving selecting a small group of ROCKSTAR individuals to become the best human beings they can be in their selected fields and eventually pass on their acquired gifts of strength, love, friendship, knowledge, endurance, and compassion which were at the core of TURTLE Wilson, essentially the “TURTLE Effect™.”

Why Gregor Mendel? TURTLE was a graduate of Gregor Mendel Catholic High School and is in the Hall of Fame as Valedictorian, 3-time Track & Field champion, and United States Air Force Academy graduate as Intelligence Officer, Lt Colonel.

TURTLE’s academic accomplishments included a Bachelor of Science from the USAFA, a Master of Science from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, and a Master of Science from George Mason University. He was a graduate of USAF Squadron Officer’s School, Air Command & Staff College, and Air War College. He was a life-long learner with numerous professional certificates. 

** Vetted nonprofits

Altus Academy

Beyond Sports Foundation

Black Leadership Board, Inc.

Chicago Scholars Foundation

Umoja Student Development Corporation

Falcon Foundation (United States Air Force Scholarships)


TURTLE was a student in the capstone project course I taught in the spring of 2017. Coming at the culmination of a student’s studies for the Masters’ degree, the capstone course requires groups of students to take on a challenging real-world project. TURTLE and his team came up with their own idea for a project, found an interested sponsor, and reached out to me to request that they work together on the idea. For their sponsor in the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), they tackled a project to enhance USAFRICOM’s ability to recover injured US personnel in Africa. The group called themselves the ROCKSTARs. They stand out in my mind as one of the most motivated and committed groups I have had the privilege to guide in my many times teaching the capstone course. TURTLE’s infectious enthusiasm and his military experience were a big part of the group’s success. From reading the tributes, I can see that the way he poured himself into his capstone project was characteristic of how he approached life. I am glad I had the chance to know him and to have been a part of his education.

Kathryn Laskey
george mason University

April 7, 2021