An Appreciation: Paul Wice, 1942-2009

Wice in a 2000 Drew Magazine photo (Tim Volk)

Professor of Political Science Emeritus Paul Wice passed away just as we were finishing Drew Magazine’s Winter 2010 issue. We ran a small mention of his death in that issue’s “In Memoriam” section, but I asked Christopher Hann, a frequent Drew Magazine contributor and close friend of Paul’s, to help us pay further tribute. I believe that Paul, who retired from Drew in 2006, would be quite touched by Chris’s words.—Renée Olson, Editor, Drew Magazine

The first time I met Paul Wice, about 10 years ago, we were part of a six-person dinner party at Shanghai Jazz, the singular Chinese-food-and-bebop joint in downtown Madison. Paul was finishing his latest book, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and the American Justice System, a subject that consumed our conversation that night. Great music. Great food. Great books. Great discussion. That was pretty much Paul in a nutshell. That, and basketball. There was always basketball. Oh, and his kids. He always talked about his three kids. I haven’t even mentioned his collection of toy soldiers. And the beach. He loved the beach.

That was the thing with Paul. He never bored you. He was the kind of guy you always wanted to be with because he always had neat stuff to talk about and always took an interest in whatever you were doing or saying. Over the past decade we shared many meals—sushi, mostly, though when we got together on Long Beach Island it was always over a feast of meats, cheeses, olives, roasted peppers and loaves of bread from our favorite Italian deli. We caught Sonny Rollins one steamy May night in Morristown. We took the train into Madison Square Garden to watch the Big East basketball tournament. There were always laughs when Paul was around. He had a goofy sense of humor that he exercised faithfully. Paul joked so constantly that at his standing-room-only funeral his son Andy told a story about Paul cracking a joke—a hilariously profane joke—even as he lay dying in the hospital. I can’t decide whether Paul was one of the smartest funny guys I ever met, or one of the funniest smart guys. He was surely one of the sweetest guys there ever was.

His death last November 15 followed a six-year run of rotten health ignited by a massive heart attack in September 2003. Emergency bypass surgery saved his life, but his recovery was sporadic, landing him back in the hospital too many times and leading, in December 2007, to a heart transplant that saved his life again. In the end, it was melanoma that got him.

A political science professor at Drew since 1978, Paul focused much of his scholarship on the criminal justice system. His 11 published books made him one of the most prolific members of Drew’s faculty. But you’d never learn any of that from Paul. He was as unassuming—as unstuffy—as they come.

The funeral was an open-mike affair, the speakers reflecting Paul’s many sides. There were childhood friends from Washington, D.C., and Bucknell fraternity brothers and Drew colleagues, including President Robert Weisbuch. I thought his fellow poly sci professor Johannes Morsink summed up best. “You’re all here today,” Hans told the mourners, “because each one of you thought you were Paul’s best friend.”—Christopher Hann

6 Responses to “An Appreciation: Paul Wice, 1942-2009”

  1. Gail Dunavan (CLA '88) says:

    I was very saddened to learn of Dr. Wice’s passing. I was in his Constitutional Law class back in 1986 (a class I was surprised to really like!). And that led to a wonderful year of taking care of his kids – both in Madison and at the beach! He was an awesome professor who truly cared about his students and the material he taught. He will be missed, and my heart goes out to all those who were fortunate enough to know him.

  2. Lori Ann (Olejniczak) Haydu says:

    I’m so very saddened to learn of Prof Wice’s passing. Not only was he an amazing professor, but he embodied what I appreciated most about the faculty at Drew — a truly caring spirit and personal devotion to each student. The highlight of attending my 20th class reunion in 2005 was having Prof Wice join our dinner table and catching up on our lives, like no time had passed at all. We toasted his upcoming retirement, shared movie recommendations, and laughed. A lot. My time with Prof Wice and Drew’s Law Journal, UN Semester, and countless other PoliSci courses contributed so much to the person and lawyer I am today. Thank you, Mr. Hann, for a lovely tribute and memories. My sincere condolences to Paul’s family and colleagues.

  3. Andrew Wice says:

    I have been deeply touched by Chris’s kind words, and the love expressed by the entire Drew community. We moved to New Jersey in 1978, and our first apartment was on-campus. Drew’s trees and basketball courts have been part of our family for over thirty years. I am inexpressibly happy that so many knew my father so well. Thank you.

  4. Stephan Pahides says:

    Paul was the embodiment of all that is special and unique about Drew. He was a teacher and friend not only during my years at Drew but also during my time in law school and thereafter. One of my fondest memories of Drew is the Graduate School seminar that I took with Paul my senior year. There were only about four students in the seminar. More often than not our classroom was a pub in Madison where we drank some beer, ate some food and participated in lively, fun and interesting free-flowing debates on various political and legal issues, most of which were not really on the syllabus. Boy, it sure would be great to go back to 1982 and have a drink with Paul and listen to his jokes and views on politics.

  5. Paul had a generally subtle but infectious laugh that was no doubt borne out of his humorous outlook. The DREW Magazine photo here captures that demeanor nicely. My now 20-plus year career in law began with some Paul Wice teachings in the early 1980′s.

    ‘Nice to look back at those moments.

  6. Chris Hann’s little essay on Paul Wice made me both laugh and cry and, at one moment, both at the same time. He summed up Paul perfectly. I especially liked his comment “Surely one of the sweetest guys there ever was.” Paul was even sweet (kind, generous, affectionate) when he was very sick. When someone dies there is a tendency to say only the nice things about him. But in Paul’s case, the nice things were all there were.

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