Alaska Philanthropist of the Year, 2002
On November 8, 2002, Nancy Tarnai, with the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, wrote this article:
People who have a lot are expected to do a lot.
That's the philosophy of former Fairbanksan Dennis Wise, who on Thursday was named the state's outstanding philanthropist for 2002.
"I feel compelled because I'm able," Wise said of the contributions he has made to charitable institutions in Fairbanks. He provided funding and direction to build the Fairbanks Rescue Mission and the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, valued together at $10 million.
He said the honor, given in Anchorage by the Alaska Association of Fundraising Professionals, was humbling.
Wise, 62, lived in Fairbanks from 1951 to 2000, and now lives in Phoenix in the winter and Bellingham, Wash., in the summer with his wife, Mary. Wise grew up in Fairbanks and started working for a plumber. Eventually, he began his own plumbing business, then got into construction. He built Wedgewood Resort, Sophie's Plaza and Jillian Square, among other properties, and founded Fountainhead Development Inc.
Samantha Castle Kirstein, executive director of the food bank and the person who nominated Wise for the award, said Wise has accomplished much good for the city. "He's always involved in various things in the community that make sense to me," she said.
Wise hesitated to accept the award, saying he hasn't done all that much for Fairbanks, Kirstein said. "He is very humble about what he does and he is glad to help," Kirstein said. "He is not pushy; he is thoughtful on a project."
In a short speech, Wise dedicated the award to the hundreds of other
volunteers and staff "who bring the lifeblood and heart" to the projects he fosters.
"Fairbanks has been good to me over the years," Wise said.
And he isn't done giving back to the community, even though he no longer lives here. One thing in the works is his donation of two city blocks near the food bank for a new Habitat for Humanity neighborhood.
"It's a very nice thing to be a part of charitable organizations, to help
with their endeavors," Wise said.
He attributes his belief in philanthropy to his mother, the late Edna Wise, who served the community well into her 80s by taking in many cats.
Wise said philanthropy is a personal experience and that he wants to help while he is still alive, rather than waiting until after his death, "when resources are more apt to be wasted on legal fees and administration and subject to complicated management issues."
Wise said everyone has something to contribute, whether it is time, expertise, money or talent, and that the giver is "rewarded many times over for their generosity."
A story told during the awards luncheon, held at the Fourth Avenue Theatre in downtown Anchorage, was that during the 1967 flood in Fairbanks, one of
Wise's employees asked if Wise could help the Rescue Mission, which had been flooded. Wise offered his business as a temporary shelter, and though he
wasn't in a position to do more at that time, he said, "I will when I can."
He meant what he said.
Nearly two years ago, the doors opened to a state-of-the-art 43,000-square-foot mission, with the capacity for 100 men and 60 women and children.
The outstanding philanthropist award is given to an individual who demonstrates exceptional civic responsibility by providing ongoing and major financial support and effective leadership to community-wide major fund-raising projects, the fund-raising professionals association stated in a press release.