By JOEY RICHEY
Whether passing by with a greeting and energetic stride or responding to an inquisitive student’s questions, philosophy professor Dr. Jonathan Sands Wise’s emanating exuberance is palpable. Whomever he comes into contact with is sure to have his full, undivided attention with a willingness to deliver an honest opinion. He is “able to create and dissect arguments like no other,” said Sam Heaton. Looking sharply through his spectacles, his constant conscientiousness may be construed as intimidating, especially to freshman foundations students, but this demeanor stems from a desire to care and express ideas clearly.
Born and raised on a dairy farm in Harmony, Pa. roughly 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh, Dr. Sands Wise developed an appreciation for the value of manual labor which influenced his “agrarian” lifestyle/perspective. In today’s culture of convenience, cell phones, for example, divorce or distract one from the present, whether it is a decrepit inner-city or a breathtaking natural wonder. With manual labor there is nothing to focus on but the task at hand.
Dr. Sands Wise attended Houghton College, which he describes as “the middle of nowhere” and “thirty minutes from the nearest stoplight” in upstate New York for its rigorous and Christian based education. In his second semester he studied abroad in London, where he was captivated with how ideas are all connected and how art and literature, for example, reflect time periods. “I fell in love with the life of the mind,” he says. It confirmed his decision to major in philosophy and it was then he began to consider life as an academic. “I wanted to understand the world better,” he said. While in London he found time to travel to England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Since then he has also traveled to Israel, Jordan, Australia, Honduras and the Caribbean. His “bad reasons” for traveling include having stories to tell, but he also enjoys “realizing my perspective is limited by my time and place.” At Houghton he acted in plays as part of The Shakespeare Club, participated in an outdoor club and The Gadflys, the philosophy club. He considered seminary but chose to attend graduate school at Baylor University where he earned his master’s and Ph. D.
Dr. Sands Wise came to Georgetown as a visiting professor for two years before being hired three years ago. In his spare time Dr. Sands Wise likes to read, garden or work on his house. Although reluctant to declare favorites, movies he especially enjoys include “Lars and the Real Girl,” “Station Agent” and “Lord of the Rings.” His favorite television show is “Friends,” and his favorite musical artist is a band called Over-the-Rhine. His favorite food is a toss-up between fresh baked bread and homemade pizza. He has a wife, Elizabeth, and an eleven-month-old girl, Clara.
When asked what he values most in life, Dr. Sands Wise responded with a relatively complex answer not to confuse but to portray accurately and honestly. He said, “I try to align my value system with what is actually most valuable.” As Dr. Sands Wise tries to compare his subjective values with objective world values, it becomes clear that his qualities certainly parallel themselves with those of the quintessential college professor.