The life and times of Henry C. Wolf
September 22, 2009
From a young age, Rector of the College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitor’s Henry C. Wolf ’64, J.D. ’66 knew what he wanted to do for a living.
“I actually knew I wanted to be a tax lawyer since I was about 13 or 14 years old,” Rector of the College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors Henry C. Wolf ’64, J.D. ’66 said. “For some crazy reason. For the silly reasons of a 13 year-old.”
This unusual life-long dream steered Wolf to the College, since it was one of the only institutions in the state that offered a program in tax law at the time.
His childhood dream didn’t come easy, Wolf had to work his way through school.
Originally from Norfolk, he lived in Williamsburg year-round, working as a waiter in Colonial Williamsburg’s King’s Arms Tavern, a driver for the CW bus and a night auditor for two area hotels.
On top of juggling four jobs, he took summer classes, finishing his bachelor’s economics degree and law degree in six years.
Wolf took his law school classes in the basement of Bryan Hall and persevered through the late fall heat at a time when there was no air-conditioning in dorms on campus. Girls occupied dorms on one side of the Sunken Garden, while boys lived on the other.
Though much has changed since then, Wolf says there are fundamental similarities between his time as a student and present day.
“I’ll tell you something about William and Mary,” Wolf said. “Especially when you walk around the old parts of campus, [the College] doesn’t change. There is a continuitythere, and that continuity transcends the generations … We had a faculty that was here and was every bit as dedicated as the faculty is today.
They were totally committed to providing the students with the very best education that they could, and preparing students to be the leaders of the future.”
Similarly, times were hard at the end of Wolf’s collegiate years just as they are now. There was a war and an uncertain economy. Wolf served in the army for four years during the Vietnam War, earning the rank of captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps.
“I was lucky that I was enrolled in the JAG program and did not go to Vietnam,” said Wolf. “But I had classmates lost in that war, and it was a troubled time then as it is now.”
After his time in the army, he worked for the Internal Revenue Service briefly.
“In the legal world, [working for the IRS] is almost regarded as an act of perversion.” Wolf said.
Wolf then clerked for the first woman judge in the tax corps and later joined the Norfolk Southern
Corporation, a shipping and transportation company. Despite planning on staying with the company for only a short time, Wolf retired in June of 2007 as vice chairman and chief financial officer after a 35-year career with the company.
Former Gov. Mark Warner appointed Wolf to the BOV in 2003, and Gov. Tim Kaine reappointed him in 2007.
Wolf has also served as vice rector of the board since 2006. During its April meeting, the BOV unanimously
elected Wolf as rector, after Michael Powell stepped down when his second term expired. In 2006, the
William and Mary Law School renamed its renovated library in Wolf’s honor as the Wolf Law Library.
Wolf currently serves on the boards of AGL Resources, Inc. and Hertz Global Holdings, and he is a trustee of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
The BOV’s newest rector says that when he graduated from the College, he could not have imagined returning to his alma mater as the rector of the BOV.
“That world was so far away from where I lived that that thought never entered my mind,” Wolf said.
However, he believes the College shaped him for what was to come.
“In many ways William and Mary very much prepared me to be the rector of the College. I just wasn’t aware of it.”