Dr. Fred Wolff is a patient man.
For the past few weeks, Dr. Wolff has been planning on giving a presentation to his fellow residents at the Brightview Senior Living Center in Sayville, but due to coronavirus restrictions the event has been postponed multiple times.
“My joke now when someone says, ‘Oh next week we’ll have it,’ I say, ‘By then something else will come up,’” Wolff said with a chuckle.
Despite the postponing of his presentation of “The Geology of Long Island and How It Relates to the United States,” Wolff remains passionate about the subject after spending his whole life dedicated to the study of geology.
Wolff is a retired professor of geology at Hofstra University, where he was chair of the geology department for four years. His hiring as a professor at Hofstra in 1967 was serendipitous, as he had graduated from the school six years earlier.
“At the time, I was working on my Ph.D. at Cornell and I dropped by to visit the department chairman who’d I’d known when I was there as a student,” Wolff said. “A lady was going to retire and the chairman said, ‘With this other lady leaving now and based on the background you have, we’re going to be looking for someone with your background.’”
Unfortunately, Wolff still had a year to go at Cornell, but when he told the department chair, they decided to leave the position vacant until the following year.
“My wife was ecstatic,” Wolff said. “We both had family on the island and I did not know at the time I would be there for 38 years.”
In addition to his prolific teaching career, Wolff was also executive secretary of the New York State Geological Association for 12 years. The NYSGA is “a group of geoscientists and geoscience enthusiasts that come together once a year for a weekend of field excursions.” The executive secretary is the most prominent position in the organization.
“The irony is, nobody’s a member of the NYSGA all year long except for the executive secretary,” Wolff said. “Then when you have the meeting, everybody chips in to pay for the dinner and the field trips. So, for three days there is a NYSGA and then after the three days everybody goes back home, and the only one involved again is the executive secretary.”
Because of his career studying geology, Wolff has had the opportunity to travel extensively. His favorite destination so far has been the Grand Canyon, which he has visited both for work and with family.
Though Wolff insists his life has been “just like everybody else’s,” his love of learning and the experiences it has granted him certainly make for great stories and anecdotes.
“After thinking back, I did realize that I did some really interesting things,” Wolff said.
In the meantime, Wolff waits patiently for the day he can give his presentation and spread his lifelong love of learning.