Gayle Wise Promotes Sustaining the Mind

BNC leader promotes Sustaining the Mind

Gayle Wise, former national president of the Brandeis National Committee, with her husband, George

By David E. Nathan

For Gayle Wise, the Sustaining the Mind campaign has become personal.

Since her husband, George, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease last year, the former Brandeis National Committee president has intensified her efforts to raise money on behalf of the organization’s $3 million initiative. She frequently speaks to groups both large and small about the importance of supporting the research being conducted by Brandeis scientists in the search for a cure for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative diseases.

“With Parkinson’s, each day presents a new set of challenges,” says Wise, a longtime Brandeis donor who lives in La Jolla, Calif. “Those challenges are the reason I feel compelled to go out and talk about my experiences. I tell people that they have the opportunity to really make a difference by supporting Sustaining the Mind.”

Of the 10 women in Wise’s knitting circle, four have spouses suffering from Parkinson’s. One friend has told Wise that her husband’s buddies abandoned him after he was diagnosed with the disease. She knows of many other people battling Alzheimer’s and ALS. Neurodegenerative disease is all around her.

“I was always a leader in any campaign that BNC was involved in, but there’s something different about this  because of my husband and all of the other people I know dealing with these diseases,” Wise says. “If you’re not in that space, you just don’t understand the devastating impact these diseases can have on the lives of people and their families.”

Wise’s involvement with BNC began in 1975 when her mother-in-law, Elizabeth Wise, brought her to a meeting of the organization’s San Diego chapter. Elizabeth had founded the chapter in 1953 and was close friends with Abram Sachar, Brandeis’ founding president. Wise immediately felt a kinship with BNC and became an active member.

Wise served as San Diego chapter president from 1982-84, and she went on to hold a number of leadership positions with BNC, including western region president, national vice president, national chair of the library computer fund and national chair of conference.

She was BNC’s national president from 2000-02 and served on the Brandeis Board of Trustees by virtue of her office. She remembers being on campus for Commencement when the Rev. Desmond Tutu (2000) and Frank Gehry (2002) received honorary degrees from the University.  In recognition of her commitment to Brandeis and BNC, she was named to the Board of Fellows in 2002.

“Brandeis gave me so many opportunities for personal growth,” she says. “It’s a measure of faith and more than a little coincidence that I should be so personally involved with Sustaining the Mind. Each and every day that we live with Parkinson’s further emphasizes the need for our support and philanthropy.”