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Kevin Wise

Kevin Wise

Senior technical fellow | Boeing | Class of 1980

If you were anywhere in the vicinity of the engineering campus from 1980 to 1987, chances are you knew of Kevin Wise.

Or, at least, heard him.

The three-time UI grad (BS ’80, MS ’82, Ph.D. ’87) traveled to and from classes via motorcycle — much to the chagrin of faculty members but, at least at first, the only way Wise could guarantee getting to class on time.

He picks it from here ...

“My senior year working toward my mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree, still having a LAS class to take, I signed up for Economics 255: Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems. It was unfortunately taught in Kinley Hall, and I had a class in the Mechanical Engineering Building right before, and a class in the Mechanical Engineering Lab right after it. We had 10 minutes between classes. 

“In January, I had to run to Kinley, entering class late wearing a heavy coat, sweating, with the only seats available in the front row. I had to start dressing to run to MEL before the class bell rung, completely irritating the professor.  

“So, as soon as it started to warm, I bought my first motorcycle. It was an old, beat-up Suzuki 250 and cost $150. Someone along the line had painted the name ‘Lucile’ on the gas tank. Living with my parents on our family farm in Savoy, I rode Lucile rain, snow or shine.

“In grad school, working on a research assistantship from Ford Motor Company, I upgraded Lucile to an old Harley-Davidson Sportster I bought in Paxton. It had straight pipes and was deafening. I would start it outside MEB and the windows would shake. The professors teaching on the first floor would run to the windows to shut them, but anyone who was in MEB at that time knew, the windows were always stuck either open or shut. 

“I loved it. 

“Before you knew it, three other ME grad students in my office had bikes. We had a gang, and all became close friends. I rode my Harley all through grad school, and wearing a suit, rode it to my Ph.D. final exam. My advisor commented that he thought this was a first.  After passing the exam, the celebration at Alley Cat began.”