In Memory of Michael Wiseman

March 19, 2020

In Memory of Michael Wiseman, Ph.D.
1944 - 2020

We at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy (GWIPP) mourn the loss but celebrate the life of our colleague Dr. Michael Wiseman. Michael joined GWIPP as a research professor practically at the institute’s beginning in 2001. He served as an instructor for the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration from the outset of that school. He engaged in research, taught graduate courses, and mentored graduate students right up to the point of his last hospitalization. 

Born in southeastern Missouri and largely raised in the Arkansas Ozarks, Michael did his undergraduate work at Texas Christian University before obtaining his PhD in economics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After professorships at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Michael and his wife, Carol, eventually settled in the DC area and joined the faculty at George Washington University.

Michael’s interests varied widely both within and outside academe. We highlight just one of his research interests, but it is the one that seemed to motivate him most of all. Michael was deeply interested in poverty.  He wanted to understand its causes, its impact on people’s lives and behavior, its effect on generations born in poverty, and, of course, he wanted to understand how to eradicate it. He spent much of his career focused on one of the most profound and complex issue related to poverty, how do you measure it?  How do you know someone is impoverished? How do you know that poverty is increasing or decreasing over time?

Michael did not allow his interest in social-welfare policy to remain a theoretical abstraction but instead extended numerous hours aiding governmental agencies in the US and Europe with their anti-poverty efforts. Always active his most recent co-authored book -- Strengths of the Social Safety Net in the Great Recession: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and Unemployment Insurance -- came out several months ago.

As a colleague Michael was both engaged and engaging. He was provocative but always deeply charitable and committed to his colleagues and students. Outside academe Michael was dedicated to his church – the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC – where he served in many capacities including deacon.  Those of us who knew him well came to understand the extraordinarily deep devotion Michael had for Carol and the rest of his family.

Michael is survived by an extended family including Carol, his children Erin and Stuart, and five grandchildren.  Memorial gifts may be made to National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20016. Memorial services are pending.

You can read Michael’s obituary here.