LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with George Wolf

Title

LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with George Wolf

Subject

Queer Omaha Archives
Sexual minorities -- Nebraska -- Omaha
interviews
oral histories (document genres)

Description

Click here to access the interview, LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with George Wolf

Dr. George Wolf, retired UNL Associate English Professor and LGBTQ+ activist, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on December 1, 2017 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Wolf shared information about his childhood in New York, his father's mental illness, knowing he was gay as a young boy, his first marriage to a woman, his decades-long career teaching English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, his unorthodox teaching style, and his long-term relationship with partner, John G. Taylor.

Biographical Sketch

Dr. George Wolf, born in Brooklyn, New York, is an Associate Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a long-time LGBTQ+ activist. Wolf, who is white, earned a BA in English from Brooklyn College in 1961, and a PhD in English from the University of Connecticut in 1971. Wolf moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1966, where he would teach English and inspire students at UNL for more than three decades. The winner of numerous awards, such as the University of Nebraska Foundation Medal for Distinguished Teaching (1973), James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award (2002), and the UNL Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Contributions to the GLBT Community (2003), Wolf was known for his "unorthodox methods" - as described by a 2001 Daily Nebraskan article - and creative, imaginative teaching style that invigorated students. Since retiring in 2003, Wolf spends his time working for the Center for Great Plains Studies and is involved with organizations such as the ACLU of Nebraska, American Association of University Professors, National LGBTQ Task Force and Lancaster County Democratic Party. Wolf's late partner of 40 years, John G. Taylor (1952-2014), was also a prominent voice in Lincoln's activist community for several decades.

Interview Summary

Dr. George Wolf, retired UNL Associate English Professor and LGBTQ+ activist, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on December 1, 2017 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Wolf was born in Brooklyn, New York to George and Frances Wolf and grew up in a working-class, Presbyterian family. As a child, Wolf struggled with his father's mental illness, angry outbursts, and frequent psychiatric hospitalizations. Intellectually gifted and more mature than his peers, Wolf enjoyed sharing his knowledge with classmates, reading about world events and politics. Growing up in the 1940's, Wolf was aware of his same-sex attraction and had physical relationships with other boys, but knew his desires were considered immoral. With no role models or guidance to help him process his sexuality, he felt alone and lost.

Longing to escape Brooklyn after graduating with his BA in English from Brooklyn College in 1961, Wolf went on to earn his PhD in English from the University of Connecticut in 1971. Before graduate school, Wolf sought out psychotherapy to "cure" himself of homosexuality, but his attempts proved unsuccessful. After marrying Nancy Connors in 1962 and moving to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1966, Wolf began his decades-long career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s English department (1966-2003). In 1973, Wolf's marriage to Nancy ended and he began to come to terms with his sexuality with the aid and mentorship of gay colleagues, including author and queer scholar, Dr. Louis Crompton.

In 1973, Wolf met his partner, John G. Taylor at a dance in a church basement. Sensing he was gentle and kind, Wolf and Taylor began a relationship that would span four decades until John's death in 2014. Taylor, like Wolf, was a community activist and passionate about social justice.

Early on in his career at UNL, Wolf discovered the book "Freedom to Learn" by Carl Rogers, which spoke against the conventions of traditional teaching methods and encouraged a more collaborative, less hierarchical approach. This drastically changed Wolf's perspective on teaching and he began using more innovative teaching methods in his classroom. These methods had a positive impact on his students for decades, and taught them to connect and engage with literature in new and exciting ways. Even after retirement, Wolf still runs into former students who share with him the impact he had on their lives.

Dr. Wolf has won numerous awards for his teaching and advocacy work, including the University of Nebraska Foundation Medal for Distinguished Teaching (1973), James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award (2002), and the UNL Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Contributions to the GLBT Community (2003). Since retiring in 2003, Wolf spends his time working for the Center for Great Plains Studies and is involved with organizations such as the ACLU of Nebraska, American Association of University Professors, National LGBTQ Task Force and Lancaster County Democratic Party.

Interview Notes

A heater, at times, can be heard in the background of the recording.

Date

2017 December 8

Publisher

University of Nebraska at Omaha Libraries

Relation

LGBTQ+ Oral History Collection (Finding aid available at http://unomaha-public.lyrasistechnology.org/repositories/4/resources/604)

Interviewer

Luke Wegener

Duration

03:32:33

Files

http://revelation.unomaha.edu/_bepress/omeka/asc-contentdm-original.jpg

Citation

“LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with George Wolf,” Queer Omaha Archives, accessed July 23, 2018, https://queeromahaarchives.omeka.net/items/show/3258.

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