PETER D. WOLF Biography for the Wheatley 50th Class Reunion


After Wheatley I had a wonderful four years at Grinnell College, where I enjoyed both the academic and extra-curricular life (the highlight being able to direct a theatrical production).


This was followed by a not-so-wonderful three years at Northwestern U. Law School, where only the extra-curricular life was fun (I did everything from being a waiter in a night club, to being a walk-on at the Chicago Lyric Opera, to doing volunteer legal work in a ghetto).


During summers, I worked in the shipping industry, so when I graduated from Law School and the Viet Nam War was still raging, I decided to try to join the Coast Guard for their Merchant Marine program. Little did I know when I made that decision that the Coast Guard only took 1 out of 80 applicants into Officer Candidate School, and then only 3% of the graduates were selected for the program. So I was indeed fortunate to have been chosen, and had a valuable three years stationed mainly in Baltimore MD and Yorktown VA.


I then went to Europe for the better part of a year, starting with a three-month camping trip to the Soviet Union accompanied by my eventual fiancée, an Australian living in London; I spent my final three months in Europe with a job in Paris.


Ultimately, I returned to New York, married my travel companion, and began working in my father’s shipping business. I also served in the Coast Guard Reserves, and eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. I actually had my most interesting job with the Coast Guard, being Operations Duty Officer for the Port of New York, so I had to respond to all emergency situations, such as fire, oil spills, search-and-rescue, etc. by deploying the resources available, including patrol boats, tugs, and a helicopter.


My wife and I continued to travel, ranging from camping trips through Nova Scotia and Newfoundland into Labrador, to a six-week around-the-world trip with a week in Bali, a week in Kathmandu, and a week in southern Iran (this was when the Shah was still in power).


I then started my own shipping businesses, first at One Broadway for about five years, and then for a decade on the 88th floor of One World Trade Center (fortunately, I was long gone when 9/11 occurred). I also ran a U.S. subsidiary of a French company, which afforded me the opportunity to go to France, and other places as well, at least twice a year for about 15 years.


We lived in Manhattan, first for 10 years in Greenwich Village where we had our first child, and where I was the leader of several West Village block associations (euphemistically known as ‘The Blockheads’), which played a role in defeating Westway. We then moved to East End Avenue, where we had our second child, prompting us to move to Hastings-on-Hudson.


When the French parent company was sold about 20 years ago, I was given what I deemed to be a ‘bronze parachute’, and used the funds to move my businesses to Hastings-on-Hudson, and take a post-graduate Environmental Law degree program at Pace Law School. Since graduation, I have been transitioning from shipping to law; now the law practice consumes most of the working day.


Another transition was also occurring. After seven years of marital therapy and seven years of litigation, the divorce was granted. In the interim, I met and was now free to marry the love of my life, Christina, whom some of you met at the 40th reunion. We have been happily married for some years now and live in a new house with her two children, cats and a Leonberger (a 160 pound dog so tall that when he’s on his hind legs with his paws on my shoulders, he looks down on the top of my head).


Christina and I met met initially because our passions. Christina is an architect and was head of the Architectural Review Board in Hastings for a decade during the same period that I was head of the Conservation Commission. The Commission, once called ‘the biggest bunch of activists in the Village’ by the Mayor engaged in many projects; for example, because the area by the Hudson River lay polluted and dormant for more than a quarter century, we organized a huge waterfront festival with Pete Seeger, and the waterfront is now being cleaned up. Christina and I resigned from our respective Boards together about three years ago, so that we could build the first certifiably green homes in Westchester, which are now complete and receiving quite some recognition.


I am most proud of our four children. My daughter, who followed me to Grinnell and later got her Master’s degree, is running an anti-Malarial program for U.S. AID in Malawi; my son, who was recently on National Geographic and PBS channels in programs about the Burmese Python wars in the Everglades, is presently in graduate school. Christina’s daughter is also in graduate school, and her son is graduating from college this very weekend some 400 miles away, which is why I regretfully am not attending the reunion.


I am frequently reminded of Wheatley, because there are four of us, who, for many years, have met every few weeks in New York City…David Silvers, Gerry Litwin, and Harvey Dobrow, and myself. We also usually convene to share in each other’s major life events, like our children’s weddings


Incidentally, I believe that Dr. Wills would be grateful to Harvey as I am, for inviting me to join the oldest all male a cappella group where he was a member, for we all sang for a number of years in concert (usually in tails) from Montreal to Washington D.C., including two concerts a year in Lincoln Center.


So, I will have to rely on ‘the Boys’ to fill me in of the wonderful tales from this momentous reunion, when we next get together.


I wish you all well, and look forward to seeing you at the 60th reunion.