On November 18, 2005, Governor Murkowski presented Dennis with the "Spirit of the Great Land" Award.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Wise honored for Fairbanks philanthropy
By MARY BETH SMETZER
Saturday, November 19, 2005 - Dennis Wise is not comfortable in the spotlight, but he had little choice Friday.
The Fairbanks developer and philanthropist was honored with the "Spirit of the Great Land" award presented by Gov. Frank Murkowski, who praised Wise saying, "He gives the best to people who have the least."
The plaque was presented at a luncheon on the second floor of Wise's most recent gift to the community, the half-completed Wise Family Center, which will be owned by the Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living with the Resource Center for Parents and Children as a tenant.
The $6 million, 51,000-square-foot steel-framed concrete structure on 26th Avenue is the third major construction project in South Fairbanks that Wise has built to benefit the community he grew up in. It is scheduled to open in April.
Already operational are new buildings housing the Fairbanks Rescue Mission and the Fairbanks Community Food Bank.
Philanthropy is nothing new to Dennis Wise, noted Jeff Cook of Flint Hills Resources, which sponsored the lunch.
"I've known about his philanthropy since high school," Cook said, explaining that Wise learned about giving back to the community at home from his parents, George and Edna Wise.
Cook recalled Wise and his brother George Jr. as teenagers in the 1950s, volunteering with their father to help construct the YMCA building, which today houses the Mary Siah Recreation Center.
Wise's mother, Edna, was well-known for her many years of animal rescue and shelter work.
Samantha Kirstein, executive director of Fairbanks Community Food Bank, praised not only Wise's generosity and legacy, but his vision for the community and its future. She said that the audience of more than 100 people represented many of the social service nonprofit agencies around town and was also full of visionaries and members of Wise's "fan club."
Wise genially suffered through the speeches, the award formalities and a long standing ovation. He quietly responded with a short speech of his own, downplaying his contributions with "to whom much is given, much is expected."
Wise named and thanked many businesses in the community who have generously donated and discounted materials and work for the most recent structure. He saved his final thanks for "the people on the front lines who do the work with compassion on a day-to-day basis."
Only after the crowd dispersed did Wise relax and give a few stragglers a walking tour of the large structure.
As the group moved through the two-story building and crawl space, Wise pointed out various structural features.
"It's the same concept of the other buildings," he said, referring to the Rescue Mission and Food Bank.
"Every 12 feet there's a window, just like in a Super 8."
Wise is a philanthropist with not only the resources for benevolent work but 35 years of experience and knowledge as a contractor to back it up.
Now living in Phoenix, he recently completed the construction of a $43 million apartment building in Bellingham, Wash.
With each of his humanitarian projects, Wise is very involved from the planning stages onward.
"It's an easy thing to do," he said, explaining his interest in helping out others. "It's very gratifying. I'm proud of it."
Wise worked closely with Brenda Stanfill, IACNVL executive director, planning the layout and security measures of the building. A child-care center for staff members of both the women's center and RCPC also is included.
Wise speaks knowledgeably about the problems families face with domestic violence, pointing out a special area for clothing storage and a dressing room, because women and children often will arrive in a police car at the shelter dressed only in their pajamas.
"I want to have a safe place in this town for women," Wise said.
A small area for family pets also is included in the plan.
Although the shelter will only house women and children who are victims of sexual assault and/or domestic violence, Stanfill said the center also provides assistance to victimized men with children and houses them elsewhere.
Wise always designs with the future in mind and builds larger than the current need.
"Everything is made to last forever," he said about the sturdy nature of each structure. "The worse thing would be freeze up."
What Wise finds exciting about the buildings he's constructed is their longevity.
"They should last 50 or 100 years, and every day, all day long, they'll be helping 50 or up to 150 people," he said.