Shaver’s Creek Mourns the Loss of Beloved Friend and Colleague Will Wise

Shaver’s Creek mourns the loss of our beloved friend and colleague, Will Wise, who died following a long illness on November 12.

Will, who stylized his name as “W!LL W!SE,” joined the Shaver’s Creek family 15 years ago and left an indelible impact on those he worked with and taught. He served as the co-director for the Shaver’s Creek Team Development Center and director of facilitator development for World in Conversation at Penn State University Park, where he taught people how to talk about taboo subjects such as race, gender, and long-term conflicts.

“All of us at Shaver’s Creek are saddened to share the news of Will’s passing. His passion for people, for life, for connection between us all will be dearly missed,” said Mark McLaughlin, director of Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. “He was a champion for the creation and subsequent regular implementation of our guiding principles, which highlight our values around community, integrity, appreciation, balance, and harmony, and our sense of adventure. His impact here will be everlasting.”

Working with groups ranging from corporate entities to adjudicated youth, school students to senior programs, Will helped thousands of people foster positive communication and self-actualization. He especially loved empowering participants with social skills that could be applied both to within-the-group training and everyday life.

Three of Will’s favorite questions were:

  • What brings you joy?
  • What is this moment teaching you right now?
  • What is a crossroads you are at?

Will is survived by his wife, Heather House, and three children: Cypress (10), Sylvan (8) and Fern (8).

A celebration of life is planned for family and friends on May 14, 2022 — his birthday.

Reflections from members of his Shaver’s Creek family

How to sum up in a statement a person who changed my life? Will Wise did that as a friend, co-worker, and mentor. Together we wrestled with the challenging topic of bringing more connection to the world, each in our own ways. We challenged each other to teach love, no longer subversively, but in clear and bold questions and statements such as, ‘What happens when we let love into our connections with self, others, and the natural world?’ I now teach and interact with others with full belief that expansive love has the capacity to change me and to change our culture.

Will showed me the beauty in posing — out loud — the questions that run through my curious mind, coming out of my fear and into the light to be more fully me, and I have experienced deepened relationships because of this capacity. I have been able to experience life more fully as I listen to others with compassion.

—Jen Anderson, Program Director

There is no other human quite like Will. He had a way of showing me the potential, compassion, and desire I had within myself, if I simply believed and looked within. He taught me so much about myself and allowed me to see the world in a whole new way. Will’s impact on this world will continue to show up in the months and years to come if we take the time to watch, listen, and look within.

—Jen Emigh, Associate Director of Leadership Development; Program Director, AURORA

Will was a giver. He was always willing to give his time to others. This came across in time to listen to us, time given to a program or experience that was for others, time to help mix batter at the festival, time to go for a walk, time to listen and share about our families. Time. I don’t think I ever asked Will a question or asked for his time without him stopping what he was doing to listen, talk, or help. And he did this even more so when his time was limited.

Will’s impact and scope of reach in terms of the people he affected with his spirit was huge. Far more than we can ever imagine. How much one smile, one comment, one learning shared with another person can spread like wildfire and be a moment of growth for others.

Will motivated me to be a better person. He motivated me to give myself a break at times and be ok with imperfection. He encouraged me to wrestle with challenging thoughts.

And he has reminded me that love is where I will start and end each day.

—Laurie McLaughlin, Instructor; Program Director, Maple Harvest Festival

I, in many ways, idolized his facilitation skills. He was a master at his craft. And lucky for us, he was willing to share and inspire us all. I am grateful he was always so willing to share with our community and really took on the mantle of lead trainer for our facilitator community.

—Chris Ortiz, Associate Director of Conservation Interpretation; Program Director, Shaver’s Creek Team Development

Will was a warm, generous friend and colleague who inspired me with his sense of wonder and expansive spirit. He was exceptional at lifting people up, liberally offering thanks and encouragement for even the small things that others might overlook.

He was a wonderful listener, an asker of incisive questions, a thoughtful mentor to many. No one left a conversation with Will seeing the world quite the same.

He was always open and humble about his own humanness and was excited to share his meditations on new ways of seeing and being in the world. This continued during his illness, as he invited us all into his most vulnerable moments with peaceful and lovely reflections on life in the face of death.

It was a gift to see life through his curious eyes; to share in his moments of authentic gratitude and awe for other people, for nature, for learning, for humor, for play, for love.

—Joshua Potter, Associate Director of Operations

Our intern staff always raved about Will and his life wisdom. He gave his time freely by leading thought-provoking workshops, serving as a mentor, and always actively listening and encouraging personal growth. Will brought energy and a gift for making people feel special. He leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of our community.

—Doug Wentzel, Naturalist, Instructor, Program Director