William S Wise

Date of Birth

August 18, 1933

Date of Death

June 29, 2021

William S Wise died Tuesday, June 29 after a long bout with cancer.

He was born in 1933 in Carson City, Nevada, the oldest of three boys. He often enjoyed camping and fishing in the surrounding Sierra foothills. At age 14, while in Boy Scouts, he discovered his life’s passion: geology. After graduating at the top of his class in high school, Bill put himself through Stanford University. It was at Stanford that he met his beloved wife, Mona. After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, Bill served his mandatory 2 years in the Army, part of the time in Germany. He returned to Stanford for a Master’s degree in geology and then went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for his Ph.D. Volcanology and mineralogy were his focus areas of study.

His thesis area was the Wind River area of Washington state where he spent several summers mapping and hiking. Before his thesis was even completely typed, he was offered a teaching position at the University of California at Santa Barbara in the geology department. He worked at UCSB from 1961 to 1994 as a professor, researcher, department head and associate Dean of Letters and Science. Teaching field courses in geology was a big part of his life. He believed that geology had to be experienced by walking over and through it. He believed that a field course was the capstone of a degree in geology.

Many students from UCSB returned to tell Bill about their successes in the field of geology. They remembered him as a great instructor, fair grader and strong proponent of women and minorities in that field. Two students were so moved by their experience with this professor that they chose to honor him in two ways. One student started the Hobson/Wise Field Studies Fund at the Earth Sciences Department at UCSB. He felt that the summer field class has greatly improved his classroom learning and had set him on the right path for this career. The other student discovered a new mineral, found only in Pakistan. He named it Billwiseite. This is probably the highest honor for a mineralogist!

Bill had three children and is survived by Brian Wise (and his wife, Gloria) and Michelle Hertig. He is predeceased by his eldest, Debbie Sichel. He taught all three children about geology on extensive camping trips to remote localities for collecting minerals. All three were regularly quizzed on the types of rock, names of minerals and landforms. He was also fascinated by birds and took many trips to the Mammoth Lakes area to study the bird life there and at Mono Lake. His love of teaching continued as he taught his grandchildren about the physical world around them. Both Rebecca Tissot and Ed Sichel can tell of many hours sitting watching Volcano Scapes videos.
After Bill retired from UCSB, he found other passions to pursue including volunteering at the Humane Society socializing dogs for adoption. He made a habit of adopting old dogs who needed loving homes. Another strong interest was collecting Chinese stamps. He wrote a regular article for a China Stamp publication. He also missed teaching and began to assist in the kindergarten and first grade classrooms of his youngest grandchildren, Zachary and Jared Hertig. He could teach a child to read a book as well as he could teach a graduate student to “read” a mountain.

The title, Bill liked the most in his life, was Professor. However, when his grandsons began calling him “Papa,” this title took a close second place. Family was always important to him and he remained a strong supporter of all of his family throughout his last days.
Bill will be interred privately at the Goleta Cemetery. Memorial gifts can be made to the Santa Barbara Humane Society, whose work he loved.


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