Lending a hand

College of Social Work fellowship carries on graduate's generous legacy

Tim Wise describes his mom as a warrior, and thanks to a fellowship established at the University of South Carolina's College of Social Work in honor of her family, her strength continues to inspire others.

Yancey Kemp Wise did many things ahead of her time — a trait she came by honestly from her mother, Dorothea Crouch Kemp, who got a college degree from Carolina before most women did such things. Yancey Wise blazed trails of her own as she spoke openly, honestly and often about the depression and bipolar disorder she battled for most of her adult life.

She also fought back against mental illness by earning a master’s degree in social work from Carolina in 1981, putting that degree to use as a family therapist and an advocate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“It’s hard for anyone who doesn’t suffer from mental illness to understand or appreciate,” says Tim Wise, a Carolina graduate who also received his law degree from the university. “Most people would just hope to get up in the morning, not necessarily go back to school and get a master's of social work.”

Yancey Wise, who died in 2014, created the Dorothea Crouch Kemp fellowship to honor her mother and to help students in the College of Social Work pursue their own passions.

“She definitely was a very hard-working, strong person,” says David Wise, Tim’s brother. “It was always a passion of hers to try to help others.”

One student benefiting from Yancey Wise’s generosity is Edikan Ndon, a native of Nigeria who is pursuing a master’s degree after realizing that her original career path — she graduated from Lander University in 2012 with a degree in exercise physiology — was not her calling. After an unsatisfying occupational therapy internship, Ndon got a job as a financial case manager at a hospital, helping patients understand treatment costs.

“I found that I liked the patient interaction,” she says.

Around the same time, Ndon had an eye-opening conversation at her church with a Nigerian missionary helping citizens deal with ongoing political unrest in her native country.

“I asked her, ‘What does Nigeria really need right now?’ She told me that Nigeria needed a lot of counselors, because a lot of families were being displaced,” Ndon says. “At that point, it kind of clicked for me.”

Most people would just hope to get up in the morning, not necessarily go back to school and get a master's of social work.

Tim Wise

To help defray graduate school costs, Ndon applied for the Dorothea Crouch Kemp fellowship, which enabled her to take part-time classes while also working. When she graduates in three years, she plans to return to Nigeria to help establish the needed infrastructure to build a widespread network of social support.

“I knew I wanted to eventually go back. I just didn’t know in what capacity I could help,” Ndon says.

“It’s not something I can tackle on my own. Part of what I’m going to take away from social work is also the importance of mobilizing other people.

“The work is there. We just need more people.”

Ndon’s ambition seems like one Yancey Wise would approve.

“She had a passion for eliminating the stigma of mental illness and improving treatment,” Tim Wise says. “The fellowship is a great legacy for her leave.”    

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