In Loving Memory of Abby Dittmann Wise
Abby Dittmann Wise, a cherished member of our community at Union Theological Seminary, passed away peacefully on November 14 at the age of 94. A resident of New Canaan, Connecticut, and East Providence, Rhode Island, Abby’s life was a testament to her commitment to social justice, language, and community engagement.
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Abby’s intellectual curiosity led her on a journey that spanned continents. After graduating from Smith College, she immersed herself in the richness of French culture during a transformative year of study. Her passion for languages then took her to Denmark on a Fulbright Scholarship, where she further honed her linguistic skills.
Abby’s commitment to global affairs brought her to New York, where she served as a secretary for Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations Secretary-General. It was in this vibrant city that she met and married Stephen A. Wise. The couple chose to make their home in New Canaan, Connecticut, where they lovingly raised two sons, Ken and Andy.
A woman of deep convictions, Abby actively engaged with social issues that resonated with her values. As an elder for the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan, she played a vital role in fostering a sense of community and compassion. Her dedication to theological education and her commitment to advancing justice were further manifested in her service as a valued member of the board of directors at Union Theological Seminary at Columbia.
Abby Wise faithfully served on the Board of Directors of Union Theological Seminary from January 1978 to June 1984 and from October 1994 to June 1996. During this time, she strongly supported and advocated for the Burke Library, serving as the first president of the Friends of Burke Library and chairing the Library Renovation Committee. Abby lived out all these commitments to Union Theological Seminary with fidelity, wit, and good humor, and with a singular grace and winning way. Therefore, the Library Conference Room of the Burke Library is named the Abby Wise Conference Room to honor her and recognize her distinguished record of service to the Burke Library of Union Theological Seminary.
Abby’s legacy lives on through her two sons and two grandchildren, a testament to the love and wisdom she shared with her family. Her impact on the lives she touched is immeasurable, and her spirit of compassion and activism continues to inspire those who had the privilege of knowing her.
Union’s community extends its heartfelt condolences to Abby’s family and friends during this time of loss.