Jessie Wise, a 19-year veteran of the Department of Public Safety known for his energy and enthusiasm, died Oct. 26 of a heart attack. He was 41.
Colleagues said Wise — who was known as “Big Jess” — never wanted to miss out on a day at work.
“Even while facing some health challenges, he told me that he ‘really want[ed] to get back to the students,’” DPS Assistant Chief John Thomas said.
As a community service officer, Wise had taken pride in his work and always put the students first.
“He was able to communicate and relate to the students,” said Wise’s colleague and friend of 22 years, DPS Officer Carlos Fuentes.
Evan Slavik and Chris Sanford, USC alumni from the class of 2004, said they got to know Wise while working as bartenders at the university bar, Traditions. Wise would check student IDs at the door.
“At first glance, Jessie seemed like an intimidating character, but once we got to know him, everyone’s attitudes about DPS flipped 180 degrees thanks to Jessie,” Sanford said.
After graduating, Sanford and Slavik invited Wise to their Christmas parties in Newport Beach, Calif, and would come back to Traditions often for home football games and to visit with Wise.
“[He] couldn’t stop talking about how much he was looking forward to seeing all the students who had come to embrace [him],” Sanford said.
“Wise was the most friendly guy; he became part of our college memories,” Slavik added.
Friends described Wise as personable, and said he had a huge smile.
“He was the type of person that would talk to someone less popular in the department and make them feel comfortable,” Fuentes said.
DPS Officer Ray Hudgens said Wise was never at a loss for words around people.
“Being around Jessie was like going to the movies, because he was a great storyteller,” Hudgens wrote in an e-mail.
Wise’s friends said his generosity encompassed his family, friends and the USC community.
“He was always sharing knowledge and wisdom with others, especially with students and younger officers,” Thomas said.
Within his DPS division, Wise knew and talked to everyone — he was the cheerleader of the department, Thomas said.
“Whenever an officer passes away, it affects the department deeply; you depend so much on each other [that] when someone is taken away, it’s like [there is] a missing component,” Thomas said.
Not only was Wise dedicated to the Trojan Family, but he was also a devoted family man, Fuentes said.
“He was a hard worker and always put his family first,” he said.
Wise had been with his high school sweetheart for 24 years, and was married to her for 12 years. They have two children.
“Wise had a priority to balance his time: working, but also spending time with his family and kids,” Thomas said.
Wise is survived by his wife, Chante, and his children, Cha’Tess and Jessie.