PIQUA — A “key architect” in Piqua’s education system was honored during the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce’s 70th Annual Meeting and the 49th Installation of the Order of George Thursday evening, when Gordon Wise of Piqua was named the 2016 Recipient of the Order of George.
“Where do you start?” Wise said after made his way to the podium while the attendees of the dinner and meeting stood, applauded and cheered for him. Wise went on to thank his wife Susie, attributing her ingenuity in getting him to the dinner meeting without letting it slip that he was this year’s recipient of the Order of George Award.
“When I got divorced 35 years ago … I swore for at least a couple years if I ever married again, it was going to be to somebody smarter than me and I’m looking at her,” Wise said.
Wise said he was shocked. He explained that his wife had convinced him that somebody he cared about and would want to see win this award was going to receive it that night.
“Am I telling you my wife lied to me?” Wise joked. He went on to admire the list of Order of George recipients, humbled by being listed as among them now. “I’m on the same page with Dan French, Ruth Koon … Wow, just wow.”
“The Order of George Lifetime Civic Achievement Award is presented annually at this event by the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce,” Dan Ramer, past Order of George recipient, said. “It is considered Piqua’s highest and most prestigious community recognition award, honoring an individual who exemplifies the best in volunteer and community spirit.”
Ramer gave the speech introducing Wise, expanding upon Wise’s accomplishments and contributions to the community.
“Our 2016 Order of George honoree can fairly be described as someone with an unerring sense of the pulse of the Piqua community and a long and impressive record of acting on the best of community impulses,” Ramer said.
Ramer stated that Piqua has “distinguished itself as a community that believes in and supports public education as a pillar of American life.” Ramer commended Wise for playing “an indispensable role for the last 40 years” in promoting community support of public education and channeling that support.
“Utilizing skills that he had professionally developed and honed, fueled by an enthusiasm that cannot be taught, tonight’s honoree helped Piqua overcome years of self-doubt and set itself on a progressive path of informed community support for education and a tradition that has grown to be among the very best in the state of Ohio. We are recognizing tonight one of the key architects of Piqua’s educational 180.”
Ramer brought up of the passage of the 1978 bond issue, going over how Wise created “principles that have been at the core of every successful educational campaign in Piqua from 1978 forward.” Those included focus groups and surveys, voter registration, “accurate and persuasive presentation of costs,” visual representations and scale models, and a positive campaign of letters to the editor.
Ramer noted numerous campaigns and committees within the community to which Wise contributed his time, including several operating fund campaigns for the public school sytem and city services. A tutor and a basketball coach for children in the community, he also has been a weekly mentor for teen offenders at the West Central Juvenile Rehabilitation Center for 19 years. Wise is also an active member in Grace United Methodist Church.
As Ramer’s speech reached a close, he referred to Wise as “one of Piqua’s finest citizens,” and “a Renaissance man” as well as “pretty much a complete package of community service and civic engagement.” For Ramer and the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce, Wise has contributed to making Piqua “richer, better, and more fun.”
Wise has been married to his wife Susie for more than 30 years. He is the father of Kent, Kevin, Cindy, Jennifer, Katie, Lori, and Becky. He has 15 grandchildren.
At the beginning of the meeting, Lisa Feeser, outgoing chairman of the board of the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce, went over the 2015 year in review for the chamber.
“The Chamber of Commerce experienced quite a bit of change in 2015, but that change led to growth,” Feeser said. “Growth that isn’t only measured in the number of new members or programs and services, but in the individuals who work to bring us these programs and services.”
Feeser commended the chamber staff before going over the chamber’s accomplishments, including adding 15 new members to the chamber, conducting six ribbon cutting ceremonies, hosting 13 Business After Hours events, having 23 young adults graduate from the chamber’s Teen Leadership program having a successful and well attended Golf Outing along with the Streak Fry and Auction.
At the end of Feeser’s speech, Feeser introduced the new chairman of the board for 2016, Sean Ford.
“If you are ever in need of a hug, he’s your guy,” Feeser said. “He spreads positive energy throughout our community on a daily basis in every way possible.”
Ford presented Feeser with a plaque in appreciation, thanking Fesser for her time and commitment.
“As I prepared to speak tonight I thought about what I could bring to this organization,” Ford said. “Besides my devilish good looks and my outstanding personality, I knew there had to be more. Then it clicked. Family.”
For Ford, there was nothing more important to him than family. Ford said that everyone who comes to the chamber will be treated like family and every new business in Piqua will be treated as such because they are all “members of the Piqua family.”
R. Scott Miller, president of the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce, presented the Commercial Beautification Awards, which go to businesses in Piqua whose renovations to new or existing facilities enhance the overall image of Piqua. Recipients in attendance included Dugan’s Pawn Shop, Harvest Pantry Bulk Foods, Piqua City Schools, Style and Polish Salon, Unity National Bank, and Winan’s Fine Chocolates and Coffee.
Miller then went on to present the Chamber Achievement Award, honoring Lloyd and Terri Fry, who were unable to attend. Miller stated that the award goes to “outstanding volunteers” who “give unselfishly of their time.” Miller said that the recipients are “longtime members.”
“They are generous with their time … and often go unnoticed,” Miller said.
Peggy Henthorn, manager of the Miami Valley Centre Mall, then introduced the 2015 Business Person of the Year Award, honoring Jeff Hemm of Hemm’s Glass Shops.
“His vision and guidance has contributed to the success of his company, which has grown to 130 employees and whose revenue has tripled since 2005,” Henthorn said. “Last year, our recipient purchased the former Kroger building on Covington Avenue, which has been repurposed for manufacturing and warehouse space.”
Hemm was also attributed as being “instrumental” in the reopening of the Piqua Country Club and a community leader whose business has contributed to the betterment of the business community and has been a “significant contributor” to the Fort Piqua Plaza Project.
“Jeff Hemm is a generous supporter of many local organizations including Lehman High School, Piqua Catholic, United Way, Miami County Foundation, Piqua Community Foundation, Salvation Army, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, CASA GAL, and One Faith One Hope One Love,” Henthorn said.
“Aside from being shocked, I want to say thank you to the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce, my family, my wife Abby, my kids,” Hemm said. “Great team we have at Hemm’s Glass.”
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall