As namesakes of Grandfather Mountain’s forthcoming Wilson Center for Nature Discovery, Bob and Susan Wilson are moving mountains.

Susan and Bob Wilson break ground on Grandfather Mountain’s Wilson Center for Nature Discovery on Sept. 2, 2019.

The Wilson Center will nearly double the size of Grandfather Mountain’s current Nature Museum and feature 10,000 square feet of new education space with state-of-the-art exhibits, three classrooms for smaller groups, increased capacity for larger groups and restoration of the ADA-accessible auditorium.

However, Wilson remains excited for what guests will continue to experience outdoors, as well.

“Grandfather Mountain has a diverse ecological presence that shows God’s beauty and attention to detail through its plants, animals and geological makeup,” he said. “We need to make sure everyone understands our planet and the resources that give us life as we know it.”

Wilson’s passion for Grandfather Mountain dates back several years, when he first heard a presentation from Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation president and executive director Jesse Pope.

The chance meeting established a friendship that would eventually lead to Wilson personally flying Grandfather Mountain staff to Idaho to rescue two orphaned cougar cubs — the park’s very own Logan and Trinity.

“It got me thinking,” he said, noting that an opportunity to give would help honor Susan’s mother, Dr. Marguerite Barrier Cooper; her grandmother, Tuppy Barrier; and grandfather, Lloyd Barrier.

The Barrier family was one of the first to settle the area around nearby Jonas Ridge, Wilson said, adding that Marguerite was actually born there and attended school at Crossnore, where she discovered a passion for chemistry. She would later teach chemistry at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn., eventually retiring at 91.

“Every summer, she and Susan returned to her beloved mountains,” Wilson said.

And now, the Wilsons are doing the same, while celebrating their ancestors’ passion for teaching.

“Teaching brings families, friends, schoolmates and others together to work and understand plants, animals and all of God’s creatures,” he said. “It’s amazing, when you really look at our world, how everything has a special purpose, and you can share it with the ones you love.”

Wilson said he hopes his and Susan’s donation will make Grandfather Mountain a “must-see” destination for outdoor education in the Southeast.

“Families and groups will become more aware of the beauty and life cycles of the Earth,” he said. “Through their knowledge, they can pass it on to others. We also get to honor Susan’s family… They worked hard to help others in need, and we are continuing their legacy.”