Dr. Richard Wiseman

January 25, 1923 — February 9, 2008


Richard Wiseman, professor emeritus of German/foreign languages and comparative literature, died peacefully at the age of 85 on Feb. 9, 2008, while listening to one of his favorite pieces of classical music -- Brahms' Second Symphony. He will be remembered by his colleagues and students for profoundly influencing them through his love and in-depth understanding of literature, his wide range of interests and accomplishments, his unbounded dedication to his students and his humanity.

Wiseman began his career at SF State in the Department of German and the Department of World and Comparative Literature in 1959. Prior to this, he received a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where, from 1964 to 1966, he taught Hermann Hesse seminars as Visiting Associate Professor of German.

He did post-doctoral work and research at the Sorbonne in Paris, the Thomas Mann Archives and the C.G. Jung Institute in Zürich, and he studied in New York at Columbia University and Hunter College. He also earned a Certificate from the University of Strasbourg and a "Diplome d'Etudes" from the University of Caen, both in France. In his later career, he received an M.A. in psychology from the Professional School of Psychology in San Francisco. Professor Wiseman was fluent in German, French, Spanish and Italian, and had a strong reading knowledge of Russian, Portuguese, Ancient Greek and Latin.

In 1968 Wiseman won the Distinguished Teacher Award of what was then the California State Colleges. He also served as Chair of the Department of World and Comparative Literature from 1977 to 1980 and throughout his career at San Francisco State University as a much respected graduate advisor, sought-after professor and mentor of the German Program.

Nancy McDermid, dean emerita of the College of Humanities, remembers him well: "During my 22 years as Dean, I learned from and often leaned on this wise and generous man who represented in his own life the meaning of the humanities. He embraced the trajectory of the road ahead: a class to teach, a book to read, a book to write, another language to learn, a student to encourage, music and art to enjoy and share, a friend to befriend -- and he was my friend."

Wiseman had a distinguished record of publications, including his book "Therapeutic Literature" published in 1980. He also produced a series of articles on literature and teaching. His main interest was exploring combinations among a variety of disciplines, and principally among music, philosophy, psychology and literature.

He co-founded and was actively engaged as a board member of the Pacific Institute. He also served on a panel with Joseph Campbell and participated in James Hillman's conferences on archetypal psychology. His versatility led to opportunities to teach, among others, at the San Francisco Jung Institute, at the Jung Institute in Zürich, Switzerland, and at the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco. Professor Wiseman volunteered his time at Visiting Nurses and Hospice, and the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute.

He devoted his later career to the study of the works of the philosopher Martin Heidegger, the poetry of Paul Celan and the interactions of therapy. In 2003, Elder Academy Press published his book "The Therapies of Literature," a lifelong work integrating the themes of literature, philosophy and therapy on a grand scale as it applies to the plight of contemporary humankind.

Wiseman retired from the Departments of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature in 2002. "Wiseman was a paragon of elegance in style and in substance," said Professor Emeritus Julian Randolph. "Through the years students and colleagues appreciated his incredible breadth of knowledge, his absolute insistence on high standards, and his incomparable understanding of art, life and tolerance."

Honoring Wiseman's memory and his life, his accomplishments and the wide influence he had on students, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures is establishing a scholarship for deserving undergraduate and graduate students. Please send donations to: The Richard Wiseman Scholarship, San Francisco State University, University Development ADM 153, San Francisco, CA 94132.

This site is a work in progress and we would like to in some way add all contributions from students and colleagues of Richard. If you have any suggestions or anything you would like to see added to this site, please email us.