Wisdom Family Foundation funds second endowed art chair; art minor to begin in fall

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Wisdom Family Foundation funds second endowed art chair; art minor to begin in fall

March 22, 2011

The commitment on the part of the Wisdom Family Foundation to begin an art program at Northwestern Oklahoma State University has been made clear with the gift of $250,000 to create a second endowed faculty chair in art.
This current gift matches an initial $250,000 pledge in August of 2008 to establish the Grace V. Wisdom Endowed Chair in Visual Arts.

With $500,000 in endowed funds to support a faculty position, Dr. Janet Cunningham, university president, said Northwestern plans to begin offering an academic minor in art beginning with the fall semester of 2011.

“A program in visual arts will add a needed academic offering in our School of Arts and Sciences and provide an outlet for our students and community to further develop an appreciation for the arts,” Cunningham said. “The generosity and commitment on the part of the Wisdom Family Foundation is truly humbling. We are extremely fortunate to have the confidence of Dr. Peggy Wisdom to create a program that will honor her mother’s appreciation and love of art.”

Grace Wisdom, and her husband, C.W., were involved in the farming and banking industries in northwest Oklahoma. The couple and their family moved from Okeene to Alva in the 1950s with their purchase of Alva State Bank. Upon the death of her husband in 1983, Mrs. Wisdom became chairman of the board of Alva State Bank and the First National Bank of Okeene.

While most in the community viewed Mrs. Wisdom as a successful businesswoman and community leader, few people outside of her family knew of one of her greatest passions – a love for the visual arts.

“We all have interests that provide balance in our lives,” said her daughter, Dr. Peggy Wisdom. “She had a passion for art.”

Mrs. Wisdom’s work in art began in college at Oklahoma A&M during the mid-1940s. Though she pursued a degree in nursing, Wisdom enrolled in an art class and began creating her own works.

After moving to Alva from Okeene in 1958, Mrs. Wisdom’s interests in art expanded. In the 1960s, she began working in ceramics with local artisan Lila Groh. She began involving her three daughters – Peggy, Dianna Sue and Cynthia – in projects. Once she mastered ceramics, she began porcelain china painting and created plates, vases, trays and china dolls.

Wisdom also developed creative hobbies such as woodworking and floral arranging. In the 1970s, she began oil painting focusing on still life. In the late 1970’s, she began working with watercolors, her finest and best loved medium. Sculpture also was an interest.

Wisdom passed away May 16, 2008, at age 83. She was preceded in death by her husband, C.W., and two daughters, Dianna Sue and Cynthia (Gingrich). Dr. Peggy Wisdom is Professor of Neurology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She currently is Chief of Neurology and Rehabilitation at the Oklahoma City Veterans' Affairs Medical Center.

The gift from the Wisdom Family Foundation is eligible for a dollar-for-dollar match from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education through its endowed chair program, making the impact of the gift $1 million when fully matched.

The Wisdom Family Foundation has made a significant positive impact on Northwestern since 2008. In addition to its support of the visual arts, the Foundation has provided funds for an endowed faculty chair in the University’s new agriculture education program and provided major funding for the program’s headquarters – the Wisdom Agriculture Education Center – at the University Farm.