MOUNT OLIVE — The date Feb. 18 will mark the one year anniversary since the unexpected death of Kevin Wise Jr., a high school senior at Southern Wayne with a promising baseball future and a full ride to UNC Chapel Hill. Though the initial shock of his death has subsided, the pain is ever-present for those who were closest to him, as are the wonderful memories of who he was, what he wanted to become, and the positive role model that he still can be.
To honor Kevin’s memory his mother, Elizabeth Waters Wise, and his grandparents, Charles and Elsie Swinson, have established the Kevin Wise, Jr. Memorial Endowed Athletic Scholarship Fund at Mount Olive College. The family was on hand Thursday to sign the papers.
Talking with Kevin’s grandparents, it is easy to picture the 5 foot 11-inch, 17-pound, handsome kid with the infectious smile and easy-going style. Kevin was a centerfielder, quick on his feet and even quicker to pop up if he was ever down — in life or on the field.
From his early days of playing tee ball, to his senior year in high school, Kevin knew what he wanted, and he worked hard to accomplish his goals. “He had determination and drive with an eye on the prize,” Elsie said.
Kevin had a natural ability with baseball that was cultivated with the help of his granddad, his coaches at Southern Wayne and many others along the way. “Every afternoon, Kevin would come in and do his homework and then head outside to practice baseball,” Charles recalled. “It did not matter the temperature, the season, or the weather. He was that dedicated.”
Kevin’s dedication paid off. At last year’s Hot Stove Banquet, held just two weeks before his death, he was named co-winner of the Jerry Narron Award. “He was so proud of that award,” Elsie recalled. He was also proud of the fact that he was offered a package with the Atlanta Braves. “But he turned the package down to accept a full ride and a starting position as a centerfielder at UNC-Chapel,” Charles said. “He valued the importance of education.”
Beyond baseball, Wise was a born leader and a champion for the underdog. “Kevin always had a handshake and a smile for everyone he met,” Charles said. “Everybody was his friend and he was everybody’s friend.”
He was also known for his faith and belief in God. “Kevin actually accepted Christ on the baseball field during his junior year in high school,” Elsie said. As a profession of his faith, Kevin had the verse Luke 1:37 tattooed on his arm. “That was a verse he lived by,” Elsie said.
“Kevin’s understandings of the importance of an education, his love of baseball and his faith in Jesus Christ are all reasons the endowed scholarship at Mount Olive College is such a perfect way to memorialize his life,” said Planned Giving Director Dwayne McKay.
According to McKay when the Kevin Wise, Jr. Memorial Endowed Athletic Scholarship Fund reaches $10,000, Mount Olive College will administer assets of the fund in the form of scholarships with first priority going to student athletes from Southern Wayne High School and then to student athletes from Wayne County.
Another reason the family feels the endowment at MOC is so meaningful is that both of Kevin’s aunts, Teresa Swinson Thigpen and Laura Swinson Skinner, and his mom, Elizabeth Waters Wise, all three attended the college.
“It will be a great honor to have something with Kevin’s name on it here,” Elsie said. “We want this endowment to keep his memory alive and to help deserving students fulfill their dreams. I hope that people will remember Kevin as an outstanding ball player that did not quite finish what he started. I also hope this scholarship shows people that, like Kevin’s favorite Bible verse states, ‘With God, anything is possible.’”
Anyone wanting to contribute to the Kevin Wise, Jr. Memorial Endowed Athletic Scholarship Fund at Mount Olive College can contact Dwayne McKay at 919-658-7757 or email him at email@example.com. On Saturday April 13, 2013, the Mount Olive College men’s baseball team will compete against Limestone at noon. All proceeds from that game will go to the Kevin Wise, Jr. endowed scholarship fund.
Mount Olive College is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The college, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville. For more information, visit www.moc.edu.