Carl Wolf as pictured in the College’s 1970 yearbook.
Professor looks back at 46-year career on campus
As the 2014-15 academic year comes to a close, physics professor Dr. Carl Wolf is winding up a remarkable 46 years at the College.
Despite the decades he spent on campus, “It went by fast,” Wolf said. “You think about all the changes you went through in your life, and realize it’s been quite a long time.”
It all began in April 1969. A recent graduate of Harvard University, Wolf was teaching at what was then Lowell State College.
“I went down to Harvard and saw a list of schools on the blackboard that needed physics professors,” he recalled.
North Adams State College – now MCLA – was on that list.
“I said, ‘North Adams is beautiful! It’s up in the mountains, and it’s in the Berkshires. So I wrote a letter, and I came out and looked around. I thought, ‘I’ll take the job,’” Wolf said.
After finishing out the academic year at Lowell and teaching at Harvard over the summer, Wolf headed to North Adams. He’s never looked back.
“At times I’ve thought of moving, but I’d moved a lot before I came out here. I didn’t want to keep moving around the country,” he said.
As a new professor, “I was purely into teaching,” Wolf said.
Fascinated by an array of physics-related disciplines that include astrophysics, cosmology, particle physics and quantum mechanics, “In the late 1970s and early ’80s I really got into research, and published about 170 papers. I really worked hard, and that was an enjoyable thing.”
As Wolf’s career continued, he saw many changes to the campus, including renovations of Murdock and Bowman halls, and the Amsler Campus Center. The College added a new Athletics complex and – most recently – constructed the Feigenbaum Center for Science and Innovation.
Beyond the campus’s physical structures, Wolf noted among the changes MCLA’s increased outreach into the North Adams community over the past decade or so. The art galleries, initiatives and multitude of activities MCLA offers continue to draw thousands of local residents – and tourists – to the downtown.
A physics professor to generations of students at the College, Wolf taught many of the children – and even a few grandchildren – of his former students.
Over the years, he learned to take a personal approach with his students.
“People need people,” Wolf said. “You can’t be an island. That’s become more evident in my mind over the last decade. If you can’t mix it up day-to-day and share in people’s joys, and also in their sorrows, there’s not much meaning to life.”
He continued, “I really am fortunate that I ended up here and I was able to do what I want – to teach the kids. I love the kids more than ever now. I never wanted to be involved in a big, competitive situation where everybody’s on each other’s back, and it’s impersonal.”
MCLA’s size and atmosphere, he said, is ideal for promoting a personalized education to students.
Although his retirement soon will be official, Wolf will remain a familiar face on campus: he will return to teach one course in the fall, and another next spring semester.
“It’s really been nice,” he said. “I’ll still be part of things. I feel really grateful that things went the way they did. My life has been good for me.”