“She was one that would walk in the room and the entire room would light up,” said Shippensburg University head lacrosse coach Nicole Meehan of her former player Julia Wise. “She was one that had a present personality. You always heard her voice somewhere.”
Julia Wise, an SU alumna and former Raiders’ lacrosse captain, was diagnosed with metastatic Stage 4 breast cancer not even a year following her graduation from SU in 2017. She died Feb. 11, surrounded by her family, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. She was 25.
A Greenwood, Delaware, native, Wise graduated from Polytech High School before attending SU. In her freshman year, Wise appeared in 10 games as a reserve defender for the field hockey team. She joined the lacrosse team her sophomore season, eventually suiting up for the Raiders in 49 games (48 starts) and being named captain her senior season.
Following her diagnosis, Wise returned to campus Feb. 16, 2019, for the SU basketball teams’ #WiseWillRise fundraiser at their games. On March 23, the lacrosse team held its #WiseWillRise game, displaying an impressive defeat over nationally ranked Mercyhurst University at the time, 13-11.
“It was such a special day. The stands were filled, and a lot of the alumni came back for it,” Meehan said. “That is undoubtedly my favorite game to date. Not just because we had a big win, but for the reason of the game. We were able to honor her. We were able to honor parents who have gone through breast cancer in general, and that just made my heart happy.”
Wise is not only remembered for her defensive capabilities on the lacrosse field but also how she carried herself. Meehan said it was her caring nature, determination in everything she pursued and positive outlook on life that resonated with everyone who got the chance to be around her.
When Meehan first accepted the SU head coaching position in 2017, she said she distinctly remembers Wise being the first player to come to her office to speak with her.
“I remember when I first got this job, she was the very first person on the team that came in and just plopped herself down in the office and started to get to know me, and that allowed me to start to get to know her,” Meehan said. “That’s a conversation I definitely will never forget because she was never afraid to put herself out there.
“She was someone who was never afraid to try something new and learn something new,” she added. “And I think that’s something her teammates saw in her as well.”
And Wise’s leadership carried beyond the teammate setting. She represented the lacrosse team in the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and was heavily involved in SU’s exercise science program, in which she earned her bachelor’s degree.
From Meehan’s perspective, Wise’s personality was not just tied down to strong leadership. She was a good friend to all, someone you wanted to be around. Someone who would crack a joke, but at the same time, knew when to be serious and unite the team.
“She knew how to communicate with everybody,” Meehan said. “She knew when to be serious when she needed to be serious, whether that would’ve been in a game or practice. But she also knew how to break that gap or break that bridge of being a captain and was there for her teammates when they needed her most.”
“But at other times, it was hard to get Julia to be serious because she just had that fun-loving personality,” she said.
Meehan said even after Wise left SU, there are still some traits and lessons of hers that have stayed within the program: Cherish every day and live life to the fullest. It was something she illustrated well before her diagnosis.
“Julia was one that saw the positive in everything,” Meehan said. “I think just seeing what she’s gone through and living her life out even with battling the last few years… I think that’s something that has transpired and was something that we talked about as a team. Just live each day as if it were your last because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
“She was one that always had a smile on her face. She was always one trying to be a good teammate and would carry on conversations and just made people laugh all the time,” she added. “And I think that’s what stuck hard with her passing, is that her personality was so vibrant and that’s what people loved about her.”
In the end, Meehan said she is thankful for the countless memories she shared with Wise.
“I think the last memory of Julia that stands out to me was that next fall she came back for our alumni game. She was deep into treatments and was out there as if you had no clue, she was battling Stage 4 breast cancer and was having the time of her life,” Meehan said.
“That was around the time when we had implemented a shot clock into our game, and she was out there yelling out the wrong shot clock times and was just making everyone laugh because it was such a Julia thing to do. And it was in that moment that I knew this was something I was going to remember forever.”
Those wishing to remember Wise are asked to donate to one of the following organizations in her name in lieu of flowers: Metavivor.org, TheBreasties.org, Delaware Hospice or The Blood Bank of Delmarva.