Hungry for Success

Dennis Wilson Jr. ’98, MS ’01

November 15, 2018

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A quick read of his resume and it’s clear that Dennis Wilson Jr. ’98, MS ’01 does not like to limit his opportunities.

While earning a degree in communications at Canisius College, he was already embarking on his first career as a member of a local rap group. Wilson created videos for the group and used his graphic design talents to help promote the rappers’ concerts around town.

Wilson says as a young boy he always knew he would one day attend Canisius. But growing up in Buffalo’s Hamlin Park neighborhood, just a view blocks from the college, he also knew the opportunity would not come easy.

After graduating from Riverside High School, he enrolled at Canisius and was a walk-on player on the basketball team his junior and senior years. His first year, he played point guard under Coach John Beilein and the team won the MAAC Championship. Wilson said his Canisius experience gave him the positive attitude he would need in his future endeavors.

“I didn’t grow up with a lot of confidence but Canisius helped me build the self-assurance that I use in everything I do now,” Wilson explains. “I learned about competition but also about cooperation and collaboration with people to get things done.”

After graduation, a substitute teaching job in Buffalo inspired him to return to alma mater and earn a master’s degree in education. Teaching became Wilson’s career focus. He started as a social studies teacher in the Buffalo School District and has since influenced students at School 79, Burgard High School and McKinley High School, where he currently teaches graphic design and print technology.

Wilson continued to test his entrepreneurial spirit while he taught. He established King of Spades Graphics from an office in his home. Today, the commercial art and graphic design business services clients from across the country, and in Canada, Europe and Africa. Wilson followed up that endeavor with the launch of mrdwilson.com, an upscale event promotions company, which markets community events and hosts its own signature events to help raise funds for various causes within the community.   

Perhaps the main ingredient on Wilson’s multi-career resume these days is Oakk Room Restaurant, just down Main Street from Canisius College. Wilson partnered with business associates eight years ago to open the restaurant, which serves traditional American fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Wilson’s understanding of entrepreneurial success now serves as the vision behind his latest venture, Panoramic Magazine. The quarterly publication features the lives and businesses of urban professionals.  The goal, Wilson explains, is that through the stories of others, the path of achievement becomes easier to navigate. 

“If I have any advice for budding entrepreneurs, it is to trust the process,” Wilson concludes. “I learned that at Canisius and it comes into play in each of my businesses.”