By Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
The best way to describe Piqua’s Gordon Wise is as an amazing man who has lived amazing life.
Consider that he once had his photo taken with George Mikan after an exhibition basketball game at Hobart Arena, that he brought some of the best softball in the state —- and sometimes country — to Piqua for nine years as founder, general manager and for a few years, field manger of the Piqua Fastballers, that he was in attendence at the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament long before it became the extravaganza it is now and he was a man involved in some way in many important projects in the City of Piqua through the years.
Wise was inducted in the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame in 2006.
But, the husband of Susie Wise and father of Kent, Kevin, Cindy, Lori, Jennifer, Katie and Becky is probably best known as the voice of “Raider Roundball” at Wright State University.
He was the PA announcer from the first Wright State basketball game until he retired last season after 49 years.
So, it is only fitting that he will be inducted into the Wright State University Hall of Fame Friday night and will be honored at the men’s basketball game Saturday.
“I got phone call,” Wise said about how he found about his upcoming induction into the Hall of Fame at WSU. “I wouldn’t say I was shocked, but I was thrilled. It is a tremendous honor.”
But, Wise doesn’t want overlooked something else that brought him great joy. He was a marketing professor at Miami University and Wright State for more than 50 years.
“Being a college professor for 51 years,” Wise said. “Being around young people for all that time. I can’t think of anything much better than that. I probably enjoyed that as much as being a PA announcer.”
Wise was in on the ground floor of Wright State University, which opened in 1966 with Allyn Hall as the only building —- and has grown to a Division I University with an incredible facility in the Ervin J. Nutter Center.
Wise came to the Business School at Wright State in 1964, when it was the business school for Miami University.
“I came from Miami University,” Wise said. “The first two years, we were a branch campus for Ohio State and Miami.”
While he couldn’t anticipate everything that was going to happen down the road, he knew he was in the right place.
“I knew it was going to be an experience —- and that it was going to be a place to make a career,” Wise said. “And that is exactly what happened.”
Wise considers two people to have had a huge impact on his future at WSU.
The first was the original Dean of Business Dr. Joseph Burton (JB) Black Jr.
“He described me as his first victory,” Wise said. “He told me he really wanted me (to come there from Miami University). Later on in life, I was able to tell him everything he did for me and lay it out for him.”
It started one day when Black walked up to him and told him he was going to be on the “Big Ten Committee”.
“I was curious as to what the heck he was talking about,” Wise said. “Then, he told me he was going to be on it as well and I was even more curious.”
The committee was formed to study the feasibility of starting an athletic program at Wright State. And Wise was among those who wrote the draft for the original constitution for athletics at Wright State, which remains almost as it was written then to this day.
When WSU joined the NCAA as a Division II University, Wise served as WSU’s Faculty Athletic Representative, which mean he travled to the NCAA meetings each year.
“I got to travel all over and see a lot things,” Wise said. “I was there when they voted to bring women’s sports into the NCAA. Before that, they had played in an orginazation (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women ) called the AIAW.”
The first sport Wright State fielded a team in was men’s soccer.
“I remember being at the banquet that year, with men’s soccer being the only team,” Wise said.
Men’s basketball wasn’t far behind which is where WSU’s first athletic director Don Mohr enters the picture.
“He said he needed help, such as someone to run the scoreboard,” Wise said. “I can’t remember if I volunteered or he just picked me to be the PA, but that is how it happened.”
Wise still remembers the first game when WSU played a freshman/JV schedule —- it was against the Cedarville freshman and played at Stebbins High School.
“We won in overtime on a last second shot,” Wise said.
From there, the Raiders moved to the Wright State PE Building, which seated about 2,800 — although they also played a few games at a fieldhouse in Xenia.
“The PE Building was something we really needed at the time,” Wise said. “When the program was started, we didn’t give scholarships. Bill Fogt of Piqua was on of our first big-time players to get a scholarship. Bill wasn’t that big, but he was tough. I believe he set a rebound record one game.”
And Wise knew the program was going to change when Ralph Underhill became the long-time coach.
Underhill won a national championship in 1982-83 and oversaw the team’s moved from Division II to Division I in the 1987-88 season.
Underhill coach from 1978-1996, coaching the Raiders to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 1993.
“I knew when Ralph (Underhill) became our coach he was going to bring us some great athletes,” Wise said. “I had saw him coach high school in Kentucky and take a team to the state championships. The national championship team was a great team, but the NCAA tournament teams may have been better.”
He remembers some of the games involving Kentucky Weslyan and Northern Kentucky when Wright State was D-II.
“Those were some of the best rivalries,” Wise said. “Because they both had colorful coaches. And you add Ralph Underhill to the mix, Oh boy.”
Then, the Ervin J. Nutter Center opened in 1990 and is still home of the Raiders today, with a seating capacity of 10,400.
Wise was known for his famous opening line at every game, “Welcome to the Campus of Wright State University, and another exciting night of ‘Raider Roundball’.”
“Paige E. Mullhollan (former Wright State University president) was a big part of the Nutter Center,” Wise said.
Wise said the decision to retire as announcer last season was an easy one.
“It was time,” he said. “There was nothing emotional about it. I didn’t want Wright State to lose Jason Doyle (his replacement). I only did seven games last year and he filled in for me and did a great job.”
And it has given him the opportunity to follow one of his 15 grandchildren, Madison Wise. She is a sophomore starter on the nationally ranked Iowa State team.
Wise also has two great grandchildren with a third on the way soon.
“I wanted to be able to follow Madison,” Wise said. “I go the a few of the games, but many of them are on television as well.”
Also being inducted Friday night are Vaughn Duggans, Cassandra Lloyd and the late Harold Miller.
“I am really looking forward to seeing Vaughn (Duggans),” Wise said. “He played over in Europe for awhile. Cassandra (Lloyd) is probably the best female athlete ever at Wright State. She was named our oustanding female athlete all four years. Harold (Miller) was an outstanding swimming and diving coach.”
Former Wright State coach Jim Brown will do the introduction Friday.
“I told him, I don’t know what you are going to say, but have fun with it,” Wise said. “He told me, ‘You can be sure I will.’ All my kids are going to be there and most of my grandchildren will be as well. I have really been blessed.”
As the amazing man, who has lived an amazing life, adds one more memory to the list.
Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at firstname.lastname@example.org