Former Ball State professor celebrates 100th birthday alongside Ball State's Centennial

<p>Park Wiseman, a former Ball State chemistry professor, sits in a lounge in Westminister Village Feb. 20, 2019. Wiseman was born in the same year Ball State was founded and taught at the university from 1941 to 1981. <strong>Kamryn Tomlinson, DN&nbsp;</strong></p>

Park Wiseman, a former Ball State chemistry professor, sits in a lounge in Westminister Village Feb. 20, 2019. Wiseman was born in the same year Ball State was founded and taught at the university from 1941 to 1981. Kamryn Tomlinson, DN 

100 years. 

100 years of memories, relationships and turbulence.

100 years of witnessing events such as the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, the first moon landing and the first African-American president. 

Park Wiseman, a retired Ball State chemistry professor, recently celebrated his 100th birthday in unison with Ball State’s centennial year. The Ball State Daily News sat down with him to talk about his experiences. 

Q: Tell me about your life before coming to Ball State. 

A: “Oh, goodness,” Wiseman said, before placing his hand gently over his eyes.

Q: What was your family like growing up?

A: “My father passed away when I was four, and he was a combination of teacher and farmer. There was four of us children. I had two older sisters, and a brother who was five years older than me. As for my mother, she was always very capable and knew how to run things. She was a really good seamstress, and she made her living making dresses. Women would order these patterns from wherever and bring them to her to make dresses out of them.” 

Park Wiseman (far right) stands with Jerry Nisbet, Robert Cooper, Forrest Stevenson and Gerald Doeden from the Department of Biology in June 1959 in Ball State's North Quad. Wiseman wore his academic robe during the 1959 graduation ceremony. Digital Media Repository, Photo Courtesy.

Q: What are some memories you have from your childhood?

A: “One thing that [my brother and I] did that was kind of interesting — [people] didn’t have pasteurized milk in those days, but there was a farm just about a half mile from our house that had dairy cows and milk cows. So, my brother and I would get our wagon, I sat in it, and he would pull me and deliver milk around — I’d say about a mile square. 

“Oh, my brother and I caddied at the local golf course where we could make 50 cents or a dollar. In the mornings, [when] there were not too many playing golf, [my brother and I] would hunt for golf balls, and they would go for about 50 cents to 75 cents if you could get a good one. 

“Also, I went to a one-room schoolhouse, and this was a crazy experience. There were about three rows [of chairs.] On Monday, you sat in the front row. Tuesday, you went to the back row, and you would gradually move back up.”

Q: What were high school and college like for you?

A: “When I was in about the seventh grade, I [started] to go down to the high school, which was about two miles one way. That would be two miles each way, four times a day. Can you imagine?

“During my four years [at DePauw University,] I could hitchhike back and forth to Defiance, Ohio, which was almost 200 miles. You just stand out there, stick out our thumb and nobody thought a thing about it.”

Park Wiseman attends a ceremony for the announcement of plans for Ball State's Physical Science and Health Building June 6, 1965. Along with Wiseman are John Emens, Robert Carmin and Alexander Bracken. Digital Media Repository, Photo Courtesy.

Q: Do you have any fun stories from hitchhiking?

A: “Oh, I remember one story — maybe it is good or maybe not — but on Sundays, I would hitchhike to South Bend to see [my wife]. I was riding with some man, the radio came on, and it was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘This is the day of infamy’ [speech.] He had just told about Pearl Harbor and what happened there. So, I just kept riding because I wanted to know what happened.” 

Q: Can you tell me about your wife?

A: “The year after we got married, we got an apartment in West Lafayette. It was great. Her father wanted her to teach. So, she was a music and art teacher, and one year, she had these football players at South Bend High School. Here’s this girl teaching 6 foot 5 inch football players.

“After I retired, my wife and I had a lot of fun [because] we could travel, and in the winters, we would go to Arizona.”

Q: Can you tell me about your teaching career?

A: “There was an opening at Ball State. I didn’t think I wanted to go to a teacher’s college, but it was a job. I started teaching in ‘47, and I taught until ‘81. Then I retired because I thought that was long enough, you know? But I’m still here [in Muncie.] It is funny how it all worked out.

“[Teaching] never got old and never felt like it was work.”

Contact Kamryn Tomlinson with comments at