Charles and Mary Alice Wise Named Founders of Baylor University

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(L to R) - Tommye Lou Davis, Mary Alice Wise, Charles Wise and Baylor President Ken Starr at the Jan. 31 Founders Day celebration at Baylor's Waco Hall.
Jan. 31, 2011

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Baylor University alumni Charles and Mary Alice Wise of Gatesville, Texas, were presented with one of the university's most distinguished awards - the Baylor University Founders Medallion - during the Founders Day ceremony Jan. 31 in Waco Hall. Established in 1969, the Founders Medal is reserved for men and women whose service and contributions have been unusually significant to the life and future of the university.

"Few stories of faithful Baylor alumni - over the years and across the nations - are more compelling than that of the Wises'," Baylor President Ken Starr said. "In the enduring spirit of our great founders, it is evident that Charles and Mary Alice are worthy, indeed, of this great honor that we've bestowed."

After seven years of service in the United States Navy, Mr. Wise received his bachelor of arts degree from Baylor in 1955, while Mrs. Wise received her bachelor of arts degree in 1954. A foretelling of their wholehearted approach to life together, both readily served their peers while students on Baylor's campus: Charles, as Baylor student body president, and Mary Alice, as president of the Atheneans (now Kappa Kappa Gamma).

Devoted to seeing more deserving students benefit from the Baylor experience, Mr. and Mrs. Wise have given generously to Baylor, first establishing several endowed scholarships and, then, giving to the Mayborn Museum Complex, as well as to the McLane Student Life Center and George W. Truett Theological Seminary. For these and other generous gifts to Baylor University, the Wises also were presented with the Pat Neff Medallion of The Medallion Fellowship during a special luncheon following the Founders Day ceremony.

Over the years, the couple has consistently invested in the life and future of the university and has been recognized through membership in Baylor's most prestigious societies, including Baylor's Endowed Scholarship Society, as Charter Members of Baylor's Old Main Society and members of Baylor's Medallion Fellowship. Mr. Wise served on the Baylor Board of Regents from 1993 until 2002. Providing valued leadership and answering the call to rally behind Baylor students through scholarship support, Mr. and Mrs. Wise currently serve on The President's Scholarship Initiative Steering Committee.

But the Baylor family is not the only beneficiary of Mr. and Mrs. Wise's abundant generosity. Tireless servants of the Gospel of Christ, the couple has spent 40 years volunteering in prison ministry, including 16 years ministering to women on Death Row. They first became involved in prison ministry with fellow Baylor alumnus Bill Glass and his ministry, Champions for Life. Their initial experience with Mr. Glass led to a long-term commitment of leading weekly Bible studies for prisoners. In the last nine years, Mrs. Wise has devoted much of her energy to launching the Central Texas Hospitality House - a nondenominational, nonprofit ministry for prisoners' families - where she continues to serve on the board of directors. During this morning's ceremony, Dr. Jon Singletary, The Diana R. Garland Endowed Chair in Child and Family Studies and Director of the Center for Family and Community Ministries at the Baylor School of Social Work, commented on the significance of the Wises' work and ministry.

"I am humbled by the gifts from God that Mr. and Mrs. Wise offer their neighbors. The Christ-like love they offer goes a step further, allowing them to see the female death row inmates as their own adopted spiritual children," Dr. Singletary said. "As a social work professor at Baylor, I work with students who feel called to this kind of service. The Wises are truly models of how our students desire to live. I am grateful for the example this family offers as they live the vision of Baylor's founding."

Upon graduation from Baylor and the successful management of Upjohn Pharmaceuticals for several years, Mr. Wise had the foresight to invest in Medical Plastics Laboratory Inc., which he and Mrs. Wise would own, in partnership, for 30 years until 1998. Now retired, Mr. Wise also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of this specialized company.

Mr. and Mrs. Wise have two children, Charles Ross Wise and Mary Kathryn "Kathy" Wise, who received her bachelor of business administration degree from Baylor in 1981 and went on to earn her master of divinity degree from George W. Truett Theological Seminary in 1999.

The couple was first announced as Baylor University Founders during Baylor's Homecoming 2010 celebrations in October as part of the Baylor University Meritorious Achievement Awards.

About Baylor University's Founders Day Celebration

Each year, the Baylor community celebrates Founders Day, a commemoration of the chartering of Baylor University on February 1, 1845. Prior recipients of the Founders Medal include Fred and Princess Cameron, Mary Russell McCall, Ralph and Jean Storm, Troy Mays, Ted and Sue Getterman, Will and Mary Long, Joe L. and Barbara Balfanz Allbritton, Bob Bullock, Samuel Palmer Brooks, W.R. White, Abner V. McCall and Herbert H. Reynolds.

The face of the Founders Medal bears the likeness of Judge R.E.B. Baylor, with the inscription, "Pro Ecclesia Pro Texana." The obverse bears the likeness of Pat Neff Hall. A copy of the medal is on permanent exhibit in the National Numismatic Collection, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

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