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People who make a difference: Ian Wilson

Volunteer, entrepreneur, award recipient – Nolan Carter Foundation, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Architectural Advisory Committee

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December 1, 2022

GREEN BAY — A veteran, an architect, an entrepreneur, a business owner, a volunteer — Ian Wilson said he’s known for being many things.

And while he said all are important in their own right, the one he’d like to be known for most is that of a supporter — a supporter of his family and of his community.?

After returning to Wisconsin following his service in the U.S. Army, Wilson said he dabbled in a handful of different jobs – mainly in the carpentry and construction industry.

That was, he said, until the 2008 economic collapse.

“The crash changed the landscape for many people,” he said. “We were pretty destitute… I watched the (construction) jobs dry up within weeks. It’s something people talk about. Even as architects now, we all have this 2008 moment that shifted the dynamic. It was a monumental shift.”

With job instability on the line, Wilson said he had to switch gears for his family and decided to go back to school.

“I had a young family, and we were living in extreme poverty,” he said. “I needed to find a way to provide for them. I was determined to figure it out no matter what it was.”

His return to academia led him to the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s (NWTC) architecture program, which Wilson said felt like a good crossover from his previous experiences in similar fields.

With a wife and two children counting on him, Wilson said “there wasn’t a choice” of not giving it everything he had while attending NWTC.

“With a young family and financial difficulty being prevalent, I committed very heavily to it,” he said. “Education is something that somebody can never take away from you, and I think coming through 2008, there was a lot of loss… that struck me pretty heavily. I was determined to get everything out of (it) I possibly could. The commitment was much different than any other situation I had ever had in my life.”

After graduating from NWTC in 2012, Wilson said he was able to land managerial positions in the architectural and engineering department for two different companies.

However, when another round of uncertainty hit in 2015 with the company he was working for, Wilson said he and his wife made the decision to take a leap of faith and started their own firm – Nolan Carter Architectural Design.

Wilson said the LLC provides architectural services for both new builds and renovations, as well as commercial projects.

Nolan Carter Foundation
Named after the couple’s two sons, Nolan and Carter, Wilson said the firm is a daily reminder of what matters most.

It’s in that reflection, he said, that led to the launch of the Nolan Carter Foundation.

Wilson said both of his sons are on the autism spectrum, with Carter’s diagnosis more severe.

At the time Carter was diagnosed, Wilson said information and resources for those in the autism community were hard to come by.

“The support for it was not as great,” he said. “Insurance would not cover therapy for autism. For many years, we had to find money anywhere to try to give care to our son who needed it.”

Ian Wilson (left) with Jeff Rahn, president of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, after receiving the 2022 Soaring Recent Alumni Award. Submitted Photo

Wilson said the struggle to support his son prompted him to make an “unspoken promise” to his wife that he would figure everything out – which he described as a catalyst toward success.

He said eventually they were able to connect with more foundations within the community that offered grants and other support to families in the autism community.

Wilson said when they started Nolan Carter Architectural Design and found themselves in a more secure place, the couple knew they wanted to give back.

“We started thinking about the mission and vision for what Nolan Carter, our architectural firm, is,” he said. “We realized our passion and motivation stem from the love of (our) two boys and our fight against autism. The Nolan Carter Foundation became a reality. We wanted to do something to give back because there were important people along the way who helped us out, and we felt that was our motivation. That is what we’re here to do now… we should be giving back to other people.”

?Wilson said the foundation (which is a fund of the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation) gives back to charitable organizations that work to help children with disabilities – such as Bridge the Gap for Autism, the Miracle League of Green Bay and The Autism Society of Northeast Wisconsin – through fundraisers and other financial means.

He said a percentage of the profits made through the firm also goes to these organizations.

With only a little more than a year under his belt as organizer of a charity, Wilson said he has many plans for the foundation’s future as it continues to grow.

“We’d like to do more charitable events, have multiple different integrated things that are going on and basically (give) all focus to children with disabilities and young adults with disabilities transitioning into adulthood,” he said. “My wife has had visions of live-work communities for young adults (since there) is a gap.”

Wilson said for many parents of a disabled children, their biggest thought is “what’s next for my child?”

“Then even further, what’s next for them after I’m not there to take care of them,” he said. “So, filling in those gaps and having programs and a peace of mind that your child is going to be taken care of and have the opportunities to find joy and fulfillment in their life.”

Other volunteer work
In tandem with his work with community organizations that help people with disabilities, there are also a few other causes that are important to Wilson – which includes giving back to local veteran organizations.

Wilson said he also continues to work with NWTC.

For the last eight years, he has sat on the advisory board of the architectural program, working to make sure class curriculum aligns with the needs of today’s workforce.

2022 Soaring Recent Alumni Award
NWTC recently presented Wilson with its 2022 Soaring Recent Alumni Award for his “unwavering commitment to his family, community and college.”

He said receiving the award was “an honor, humbling and unexpected,” and it was meant for more than just him – shining even more light on the causes the firm cares about.

“I firmly believe we’re an amazing architectural firm,” he said. “That’s the foundation of everything we’re doing. We have fantastic clients, and we get to put up amazing buildings throughout Wisconsin.”

Wilson said receiving the award was an “emotional, nostalgic journey.”

“The more we can build Nolan Carter, as an architectural firm… the more we’re going to be able to find ourselves in a position to give back more,” he said.

Wilson said the award also acknowledges his wife, family, friends and the team at Nolan Carter, as well as those who helped his family along the way.

“It was also recognition of what we’re going to be able to do in the future,” he said. “It’s been a hard but beautiful journey, and I’m thankful and humbled to have been able to be a part of it – and hopefully have given some of the backbone and strength behind the commitment to it.”

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