Just inside the entrance to Franklin & Marshall’s Goethean Hall on the southern edge of campus, Daniel Siegel ’81 pauses as he approaches the academic offices on the first floor.
“The line of students waiting to see Sid used to be out to here,” Siegel says, pointing to a remote corner near a stairwell.
An attorney based in Havertown, Pa., Siegel once waited in those lines to meet with F&M’s Charles A. Dana Professor of Government Sidney Wise, his academic adviser. Although the conversations they shared took place more than three decades ago, Siegel speaks about them as if they happened yesterday.
“It’s hard not to talk about Sid in the present, as if he’s in the next room,” Siegel says of Wise, a legendary professor who died of a stroke in 1994. “He had an influence on me that I can still feel, and it started the first day I met him.”
Siegel met many F&M alumni through the years—including prominent political leaders, judges, educators and business executives—who felt the same way. So he decided to write a book about Wise’s powerful mentorship and its impact on
society. The result is “The Wise Legacy: How One Professor Transformed the Nation,” which Siegel published in January. Siegel believes Wise helped transform the nation because the professor mentored so many alumni of national stature.
The book features more than 40 interviews with Wise’s close friends and colleagues, former students, and prominent figures such as Ken Duberstein ’65, Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff; Mary Schapiro ’77, former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Richard Plepler ’81, CEO of Home Box Office; and former U.S. Congressman Bill Gray ’63.
“In 2008, F&M organized an alumni forum in Philadelphia featuring four alumni of national political stature (Duberstein, Gray, Stan Brand ’70 and Ken Mehlman ’88),” Siegel says. “It was designed to be an analysis of the upcoming election, but it turned into a spontaneous tribute by each panelist to the spirit of Sid Wise. That night, I walked out of the forum and said, ‘I’m writing the book.’”
Siegel, who represents injured workers and counsels attorneys on ethical matters, spent nearly seven years conducting interviews for the project. He’s also written several other books, including “How to Do More in Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line,” and “Changing Law Firms: Ethical Guidance for Pennsylvania Law Firms and Attorneys,” and is an elected commissioner in Delaware County’s Haverford Township.
He credits Wise and F&M’s Department of Government for his success, especially for helping him develop confidence, maturity, and the ability to compromise. When he graduated from Temple University School of Law, he sought career advice from Wise and other F&M professors.
“It says a heck of a lot that you’d go back to your college, and not law school, for advice on a career as a lawyer,” he says. “At F&M, professors know their students. They remember you 30 years later, and they truly care.”
Siegel believes Wise helped create a culture of mentoring at F&M. He also says the professor helped students gain job opportunities through networking before anyone knew what networking was.
“He created an ethos throughout the College that students are the focus of everything. He could have devoted his career to publishing, but he devoted it to students so they could give back to society. He connected with so many.”