Women's Tennis Endowed Scholarship a Wish Come True
May 15, 2014
CHICAGO – What the Blue Demon women’s tennis team encountered during their spring break trip to California was much more than a dinner with two very special DePaul benefactors.
The eight student-athletes and coach Mark Ardizzone spent a couple of hours immersed in the Ernie and Mimi Wish experience, sharing stories, laughs and getting to know two of the most beloved people in the DePaul University community.
“We had a wonderful two-hour dinner with Ernie and Mimi at a terrific restaurant in Dana Point,” Ardizzone said “Our players were inspired listening to all the great stories Ernie and Mimi told over dinner. To be around people with that kind of passion and that kind of generosity---there are not many chances in life to be around someone who is giving $50,000.
“That figure was just staggering to them, especially our international tennis players. The girls just loved spending time with them. They took those two hours and held onto them forever. It was a life experience. To get to meet people like that is pretty special.
“I remember thinking how personable they were. They had just met me and eight girls from all over the world, and they were so fascinated by where the players came from and how they all got to DePaul. They are such good people and care so much about others.”
They have presented the DePaul Athletics Department with the Mimi Wish Endowed Scholarship for Women’s Tennis. It comes in the midst of the Scholarship Month program. For 31 days in May, Blue Demon athletic programs are engaged in a scholarship awareness and funding initiative spearheaded by Athletics Development. The alumni team that generates the most scholarship gifts will receive first prize---50 percent of the Athletic Department’s on-line auction revenue.
Ernie Wish graduated from DePaul in 1957 with a degree in Accountancy and went on to become managing partner of Cooper & Lybrand, transforming that accounting firm into the second largest in the market.
He also served as a trustee at DePaul for more than 25 years and served the university in a number of capacities including Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Major donors for DePaul's soccer facility and the current namesakes of Wish Field, Ernie and Mimi Wish have endowed a number of scholarships within the Blue Demon athletic program including men’s and women's soccer, softball, golf and women’s tennis.
After his involvement this spring with the softball and women’s tennis teams, Ernie Wish sat back and smiled as both programs went on to win BIG EAST Conference titles.
Maybe there’s a way he could extend his championship Midas touch to the White Sox and Cubs?
“Hah, that’s very good,” Wish said with a laugh. “I’m a Sox fan and Mimi is a Cubs fan, so we’re a divided couple. But we’re certainly united when it comes to DePaul. The women’s tennis team at DePaul has come on real strong in recent years. It’s amazing what they’ve done.”
It’s amazing what Ernie Wish has done in a Vincentian lifetime of service. He is the epitome of a dynamic volunteer who in his everyday life espoused to the highest ideals of St. Vincent de Paul. Not only does he share his hard-earned life’s fortune with the less fortunate, but he has committed his life to the service of others.
Giving money to causes he cares about is important, but Wish says that for him, volunteering is more satisfying.
“People who care about others should try to give of their time, not just their money,” he said to GSB Chicago. “It’s eminently more enjoyable. When you give time, there are a lot of other benefits.
“It’s exciting to plan for something and see it happen. I have some experience and expertise in development, and somebody has to help those in need.”
To that end, Wish was president of the Alumni Association and the Commerce Council. He founded and was the first president of Ledger & Quill, DePaul's alumni organization of the School of Accountancy and was chairman of the highly successful Cornerstone Capital Campaign.
As Chairman of the Board of the Chicago United Way/Crusade of Mercy, Wish helped raise $90 million annually. For those three years, Charlie Ruder was the United Way CEO and President.
“He is crisp and tough-minded, with a heart about as big as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Ruder told GSB Chicago. “He’s an old softie. And he has tremendous staying power.”
After retiring from Coopers & Lybrand, Wish was appointed to head the Illinois Health Care Reform Task Force by his good friend, Governor Jim Edgar.
Admiring the Wish's outstanding leadership on the Health Care Task Force, Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Wish to fill the position of city clerk. Wish established new standards of integrity and credibility after his predecessor was indicted for corruption.
After such an impressive performance, Daley appointed him director of the city’s Department of Revenue that oversees the collection of over $2.5 billion in license fees, taxes, and parking fines. Under Wish’s watch, the department reported annual revenue improvements of $100 million.
Wish also headed the CPA Endowment Fund, which develops and supports programs to educate young people on the importance of finance and encourages them to consider a career in accounting.
It’s no wonder Wish was honored with the 1999 Distinguished Public Service Alumnus award by the city of Chicago.
“He is the rare individual who really cares about the institutions in the city,” said Bill Bennett, who was chairman of Lincoln Park Zoo when Wish served as chairman of the DePaul Board of Trustees and who is also a trustee of DePaul. Bennett went on to tell GSB Chicago that Wish “helped the zoo at a critical time after taking over operations from the Chicago Park District. He ran a very successful capital campaign.”
Ernie Wish traced his DePaul roots to his friendship with legendary basketball coach Ray Meyer and serving together on the Athletic Board for many years with Jean Lenti Ponsetto. Wish would gather the family and take their seats 10 rows up from the Alumni Hall court. Back in those days, his wife’s favorite player was Randy Ramsey.
“It was DePaul University that made it possible for me to receive a college education,” Ernie Wish said. “Without DePaul, I don’t know where I’d be today. Because of our family’s situation, I had to stay in Chicago and work while going to school. DePaul provided the opportunity for me to attend college and work part-time.
“I was going to school on the GI Bill and also working a part-time job. It was enough to put me through college. Without DePaul, I might’ve wound up working in the steel mills right up to the day they closed down. My debt to DePaul is never-ending.
“DePaul led directly to all the good things I’ve been able to enjoy in life. That degree is incredibly important. Without DePaul, I’d be in some menial job. Their mission of helping the less fortunate is why I’m here. I’m proud to be so involved with the athletics department and the DePaul business school.”
It’s almost as if DePaul’s mission and Wish’s mission became one in the same.
“DePaul has provided an invaluable lifeline to so many people through the leadership of the Vincentian order, and the university is all about service and selflessness,” Wish said. “If there is one word that epitomizes DePaul, that word is Caring with a capital C.”
Ponsetto’s face brightens up at the mention of Wish.
“There are names of people who are historically synonymous with DePaul Athletics---Vic Cacciatore, Joni Phillips, Dr. Patricia Ewers, Jim Wicklander,” Ponsetto said. “Right at the top of that list is Ernie Wish.
“From his early days on the Athletic Board in the 1970s with Pat Ewers and Gene Sullivan, Ernie was among the first to recognize that it was time to embrace Title IX. He has always been a staunch supporter of men’s basketball and other programs at DePaul in athletics and academics.
“He did so much for the university’s accounting program, and as the executive partner of the prestigious Coopers & Lybrand, he employed DePaul alumni. Whenever there was a need, Ernie would step up. He provided the funding for the soccer field and the softball field. All of our students who participate in intercollegiate and intramural sports at Wish Field and Cacciatore Stadium---that’s all because of the generosity of Ernie Wish.
“Ernie and his wife Mimi have endowed scholarships for softball, golf, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s tennis. Ernie’s sense of humor, his wit, his charm---those are the qualities that make up a very special person who is revered by student-athletes, coaches and staff.”
That dinner at Dana Point was just the beginning for Ernie and Mimi Wish. They were reunited with the Blue Demon tennis players at the program’s Alumni Day event May 4 at Lakeshore Sport & Fitness.
“Our players had to conduct a clinic during that event,” Ardizzone said. “Otherwise, they would have spent the entire day with Ernie and Mimi.
“He sat there talking with all the girls again as if they were all back at that Dana Point restaurant. He told them if there is ever anything he can do to help them, please let him know. With all the contacts and connections Ernie has, I know he would reach out to help them.
"He is that kind of a guy.”