New scholarship honors Gwinnett superintendent’s late wife

Gwinnett County Board of Education Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, left, talks with Marshall Boutwell before a meeting of the board of education on, June 17, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Gwinnett County Board of Education Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, left, talks with Marshall Boutwell before a meeting of the board of education on, June 17, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

The Peach State Federal Credit Union recently created a new scholarship in memory of Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks’ wife, Celeste Norton Wilbanks, who died in May.

The Wilbanks were married for 57 years, according to her obituary.

“Alvin, I don’t know how you feel tonight, sir, but I can imagine,” said Marshall Boutwell, the credit union’s president and CEO, at a recent school board meeting where he announced the scholarship. Boutwell said he had been married for almost 53 years.

“I hope this gesture conveys to you, in some way, the love, respect, appreciation and admiration of what you and Celeste have meant to this county for so many years,” Boutwell said.

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The Celeste Norton Wilbanks Scholarship will give $5,000 per year to each student recipient.

Celeste Wilbanks grew up in Hull, according to her obituary, published by Tom M. Wages Funeral Service in Lawrenceville.

Her “patience, grace and strength” complemented her husband professionally and personally, the obituary said.

“His successes were hers and she was the love of his life,” the obituary said. “Together, their greatest success remains their tight-knit family.”

She is also survived by their two daughters, Tonya Alewine and Tricia Wilbanks, five grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

“Always the first to smile, to apologize, to reach out, to let her guard down — she lived with a reckless selflessness and haphazard love that we can never forget,” the obituary said.

Peach State Federal Credit Union was formed almost 60 years ago to serve Gwinnett school system employees and their families.

Boutwell also announced the establishment of the Peach State Cares Foundation, which will donate $60,000 over five years to the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation. On behalf of the credit union’s board, he presented Wilbanks with the Peach State Flame of Leadership.

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The Gwinnett school board voted in March to end Wilbanks’ contract July 31 after 25 years in office. Wilbanks, 78, is the longest-serving superintendent of a large school district in the United States.