FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        August 8, 2008 


            To many people, the late Grace Wisdom was a successful professional in the banking industry and a community leader. Few people outside of her family knew one of her greatest passions – a love for the visual arts.

            “We all have interests that provide balance in our lives,” said her daughter, Dr. Peggy Wisdom. “She had a passion for art.”

Dr. Peggy Wisdom (right) displays some of the artwork of her late mother, Grace Wisdom, with Dr. Mike Knedler, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Janet Cunningham, university president. The Wisdom Family Foundation has provided a gift of $250,000 to Northwestern for an endowed faculty chair in art.

            Grace Wisdom’s love of art and the family’s strong belief in education has led the Wisdom Family Foundation, Inc., to present a gift of $250,000 to endow a faculty chair position in art at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, giving new life to an academic program that was eliminated more than 20 years ago.

            “As an institution with a foundation rooted in the liberal arts, the absence of an art program created a void in our academic offerings and limited creative outlets for students,” said Dr. Janet Cunningham, president of Northwestern. “This most generous gift from the Wisdom Family Foundation will support resurgence in the appreciation of art on our campus and provide a permanent reminder of Grace Wisdom’s support of the University and her love of art.”

            Cunningham said the endowed chair will allow Northwestern to create an academic minor in art.

            “The Wisdom Family Foundation provides a legacy for my family’s continuing interest in community development,” said Dr. Wisdom. “In the 1950s, my father (C.W. Wisdom) purchased Alva State Bank and moved the family to Alva. He felt that the purchase would be a great match for his family’s bank in Okeene.  He wanted to relocate to a college town and thought that Alva would provide educational opportunities for his daughters that would not be available in other places.”

            Dr. Wisdom said in addition to its support of Northwestern, the Wisdom Family Foundation will be involved in supporting other projects that will benefit the local community.

            Mrs. Wisdom’s work in art began in college at Oklahoma A&M during the mid-1940s. Though she pursued a degree in nursing, Wisdom enrolled in an art class and began creating her own works.

            “There are three charcoal drawings in our house that date back to that time frame,” said Dr. Wisdom. “I grew up will all types of artistic works in our house. Mother was self-taught, except for the single class in college.”

            After moving to Alva from Okeene in 1958, Mrs. Wisdom’s interests in art expanded. In the 1960s, she began working in ceramics with local artisan Lila Groh. She began involving her three daughters – Peggy, Dianna Sue and Cynthia – in projects. Once she mastered ceramics, she began porcelain china painting and created plates, vases, trays and china dolls.

            Wisdom also developed creative hobbies such as woodwork and floral arranging. In the 1970s, she began oil painting focusing on still life.  In the late1970’s, she began working with watercolors, her finest and best loved medium. Sculpture also was an interest.

            Art would always remain an interest in her life, but following the death of her husband in 1993, Wisdom became Chairman of the Board of Alva State Bank & Trust Company, its branch in Enid, and the First National Bank of Okeene. She expanded the bank’s reach by establishing a branch in Burlington.

            She also was a member of the Alva First Presbyterian Church and was a 50-year member of P.E.O. International.

            Wisdom passed away May 16 at age 83. She was preceded in death by her husband, C.W., and two daughters, Dianna Sue and Cynthia (Gingrich). Dr. Peggy Wisdom is Professor of Neurology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She currently is Chief of Neurology/Rehabilitation at the Oklahoma City Veterans' Affairs Medical Center.

            The gift from the Wisdom Family Foundation is eligible for a dollar-for-dollar match from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education through its endowed chair program, making the impact of the gift $500,000 when fully matched.


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Northwestern Oklahoma State University
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