Phyllis Wise is one of the
very special women in academia who have made history and smashed stereotypes as
a result of her exceptional works in science. Speaking of exception, she
remains the first woman and the first Asian American to serve as president of
the University of Washington (UW).
Wise is the daughter of two
excellent educationalists, who left China to the United States to pursue their
education in 1938 before the World War 2 began. She was born and raised in New
York city, her parents were educational enthusiast and they instilled educational
enthusiasm in her.
Wise’s father, had a MD degree
from Beijing Union Medical College and a doctorate degree from Northwestern
University. Her mother who was an educationist also graduated with a nursing
degree from Yenching University, Beijing, and on getting to US she pursued a
teaching nursing education degree at Columbia Teacher’s College.
Growing up as a young child
she was surrounded with lots of scientific activities performed by her father
who was a neuroscientist. Often times Wise was taken to her father’s lab to
watch him as he experiments, this explains how she got so attached with Science
at a very tender age.
Wise grew up to love education
and her parents were her back bone. Although her father had wanted her to
become a medical doctor, Wise to another path to the top and she has fulfilledher
parent’s expectations for her.
She received a bachelor’s
degree in biology from Swarthmore College in 1967, and in 1969 she obtained her
master’s degree and then pushed forward for a doctorate in zoology from the
University of Michigan in 1972.
Wise became a postdoctoral
fellow in the University of Michigan for two years (1972–1974). She was awarded
honorary degrees from Swarthmore College in 2008 and the University of Birmingham
In 2008, the Puget Sound
Business Journal named her one of its 2008 Women of Influence.
However, it hadn’t been all
rosy for Wise, she had her struggles and difficulties climbing up the ladder.
Especially being a woman and an Asian American, all eyes were on her to see how
far she could go.
But Alas! She moved upward and
even forward at every point in time.
Wisetook her very steps in
education from1976, when she was appointed Assistant Professor of physiology at
the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Moving forward, in 1993, she
was appointed professor of physiology and chair of the department at the
University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.
In 2002, she became Dean of
the College of Biological Sciences at University of California-Davis, holding
also the rank of Distinguished Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and
Behavior in its College of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Physiology and
Membrane Biology in its School of Medicine.
As she continued through her
journey in the academic sector she was made Provost and Vice President for
Academic Affairs at the University of Washington in 2005.
Her outstanding record
catapulted her towards academic leadership when need be that an interim
president was required, so she took the position of the President of UW and she
served from 2010-2011. One of her most profound accomplishment at the
University of Washington, was the establishment of the College of the
Environment which she led during her service.The College brought together
several previously abandoned programs and gave them a place in the university
priorities and budget allocations.
When the university board
found a permanent president, Wise was placed back as the Provost and Executive
But during the same period,
she was offered the position of Chancellor at one of the largestpublic
universities in the United States? the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
and Vice President of the University of Illinois with an annualbudget of $1.5
billion, $400 million in research expenditures, 42,000 students, andmore than
1,800 tenure-track faculty members.
Wise resigned as the School
Chancellor in August 2015, having served for almost five years.
Her work in science focusprincipally
on the effect of hormones on the feminine brain during the process of development,
adulthood, and aging. Her research uncovered the diverse actions of estrogens
on the brain, including its protective effects after stroke injury. She was
funded by the NIH for 32 consecutive years during which she received two
10-year MERIT awards, and led center and program project grants.
Dr. Wise is author or
co-author of over 200 articlesand research papers in endocrinology.
She is known and celebrated
for her outstanding research work in the field of science up till date, she
also has a record of great philanthropic works including;donating all her compensation
from serving as a board of director in Nike to student’s scholarships. And her
achievements and impact are countless.