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Wichita Falls Living Magazine

Carol Wagner: Called to Serve

Written by  Sabrina Forse  |  Photos by LA Saunders Media

Long-time Wichita Falls resident builds bridges in the community through a lifetime of service.

The Bridge Builder poem has been reprinted multiple times, etched on plaques and monuments, and used as words of encouragement by motivational speakers. Each year, The Wichita Falls Area Community Foundation recognizes a community member who best represent the poem’s narrative. The 2022 Bridge Builder award recipient is Carol Wagner. Wagner has cultivated a life that epitomizes the spirit of Dromgoole’s poem.  “Carol embodies the spirit of volunteerism and commitment to the community. She has been involved in so many aspects of Wichita Falls that not just impacted the moment in time when she was involved but continue to impact the community today,” said Leslie Schaffner, President of the Wichita Falls Area Community Foundation.

Honored yet surprised by the recognition, Carol Wagner claims she is just one of Wichita Fall’s countless volunteers. “There are so many worthy recipients and tireless volunteers. Wichita Falls is a city with a strong Christian influence where people care about their neighbors,” said Wagner.
For Wagner, the desire to serve others is inherent. “The pattern of volunteerism was definitely set through the example of my parents. They loved their neighbors whether they were next door or around the world,” said Wagner. “The commandment to love your neighbor certainly does include the person next door but also includes the entire community which was made in God’s image.”

Wagner moved to Wichita Falls in 1958. She taught at Wichita Falls High School four years and then stayed home to raise her children. She returned to the classroom over the years including a stint at Midwestern State University and another four years at Wichita Falls High School. “There are a few gaps in my teaching career. I would consider myself a community volunteer,” said Wagner. 

Wagner’s first volunteer effort in Wichita Falls started in 1964. “An acquaintance of mine was active in the March of Dimes and asked me to chair the door-to-door city wide campaign. We had just adopted our first child, so I prayed about it and decided to do it. Then during the campaign, we adopted our second child, so I was a busy young woman.”

Since then, Wagner has served with more than sixty organizations. At the time of service, she was the first woman in Wichita Falls history to serve three terms on City Council (1978-1983) She was serving as mayor pro-tem during the 1979 tornado. “The children and I had just returned from a spring break trip in Austin. My husband greeted us and said, ‘Let’s go to eat.’ We were on the phone with the restaurant when the line went dead. We turned on the tv only to find it wasn’t working either. We soon learned the tornado hit and we quickly set out to volunteer. It was an incredible amount of time, effort and prayer to assist a city that was very hurt at the time.”

In addition to Wichita Falls City Council, Wagner has served on numerous city commissions concerning traffic safety, human relations, fine arts and more. “I was the only woman up to that time to chair a regional planning commission. The Nortex Regional Planning Commission serves eleven counties and addresses projects at the state and federal levels. I was able to work closely with county judges and came to appreciate how work is done for the community at a county level.”

Wagner has also served with the Boys and Girls Club of Wichita Falls, Friends of Kell House, Wichita Christian School, Symphony Women’s League, Texas Joint Council of Teachers of English, Beacon Lighthouse for the Blind and countless other organizations. Wagner doesn’t only volunteer, she leads by example and encourages others to do so as well.  As president of the Junior League, Wagner was able to connect and train new community volunteers. “The United Way began a new program called Volunteer Leadership Development and I was the first director of that program. It’s now housed at Midwestern State University and is called the Center for Nonprofit Management and Leadership. It’s a wonderful place for people to make inquiries about volunteer needs and get training.”  

When deciding which projects to take on next, Wagner asks the Lord for direction. “I was not looking for something else to do when Faith Refuge began to materialize. I was invited to be a part of it and as always, I prayed about it first. I was led in that direction, and it’s been an amazing experience to be a part of. The Faith Refuge offers housing, education and training for homeless women and children,” said Wagner. “I will always depend on God to show me if there is anything else I can still do to enrich our area.”

The Bridge Builder Award is the latest in a multitude of honors. Wagner was inducted into the North Texas Women’s Hall of Fame for her contributions to volunteerism. She even received a Special Citation from the German Air Force for distinguished service in support of their program in America. You can also read about Wagner in the Museum of North Texas History’s book, Women of Wichita County, Stories about Remarkable Women. “I have encouraged volunteerism as a way of life and that is probably the accomplishment of which I’m most proud.”  †

Lifetime of Service - Organizations that Wagner has served:
American Association of University Women
American Medical Association Auxiliary
American Psychiatric Association Auxiliary
American Red Cross 
Association of Junior League Sustainer Board
Beacon Lighthouse for the Blind
Bicentennial Commission
Boys and Girls Club of Wichita Falls
Centennial Commission 
Center for Volunteer Leadership Development
Children’s Home 
Christ Prison Ministry
City of Wichita Falls Activities Center
Clavier Club 
County Judge’s Redistricting Commission
Crockett Elementary P.T.A. 
Design Review/Landmark Commission
Edgemere Church of Christ
Faith Refuge 
Fine Arts Commission Advisory
Foster Home Program of Family Court Services 
Friends of Kell House  •  Goals for Wichita Falls
Good Time Singers
Great Books Association  •  Human Relations Commission
Junior Great Books of Wichita Falls
Legal Auxiliary  •  March of Dimes
Mayor’s Redistricting Commission
Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Activities Center Development Commission
Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women 
Midwestern State University President’s Excellence Circle 
Nortex Regional Planning Commission
North Texas Mental Health Center 
North Texas Medical Foundation
Operation Brainpower (U. of T.) 
Spring Fling Steering Committee
Symphony Women’s League 
Texas Association of Regional Councils
Texas Ex-Students’ Association
Texas Joint Council of Teachers of English
Texas Medical Association Alliance 
Texas Municipal League  •  Traffic Safety Commission
 Transportation Commission 
United Way   •  Volunteer Action Committee
 Volunteer Services Council of the State Hospital 
Wichita Christian School Admissions Committee
Wichita County Child Welfare Board 
Wichita County Heritage Society  •  Wichita County Medical Alliance
Wichita County Medical Society
Wichita County Mothers March on Birth Defects 
Wichita Falls Area Community Foundation
 Wichita Falls City Council Member (3 terms) & Mayor Pro-Tem 
Wichita Falls Junior League
Wichita Falls Museum and Art Center 
Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra 
Wichita Falls Youth Chorale Parents’ Club
Wichita General Hospital  •  Y.M.C.A. Tri-Hi-Y Board
 +Many More! 

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