The Hilda and Charles Wolff Scholarship
Hilda and Charles Wolff valued education and prized lifelong learning.
Hilda was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Hilda’s mother had enough money to send one child of her seven children to college. Hilda was the one who got to go to college because her brother chose to become a truck driver. She graduated from Ursinus College in 1940, earned a pilot’s license, and became a teacher in Maryland.
Charles, a native of Albany, N.Y., was the youngest of three children. He graduated from the eighth grade and started his life’s work as a railroad signal maintainer when he was just 16 years old.
Hilda’s sister and brother-in-law relocated to Albany where they owned a small grocery store. It was the one where Charles’ mother shopped. The store was staffed by the neighborhood’s young men until WWII when so many were in service that Hilda came during the summers to help. Charles’ mother met Hilda and wrote to her son, who was serving in the U.S. Army, about the grocer’s sister-in-law. When Charles was home on leave, he and his best friend went to the grocery store. After their second visit, Charles declared he was going to marry the schoolteacher and his friend told him he was crazy.
Hilda and Charles raised four children. Hilda earned a master’s in education from SUNY Albany and taught mathematics in the Albany city schools. Charles worked for the railroad, retiring from Conrail. Hilda was an energetic woman, combining a practical outlook on life and a love of theater and musicals. She would dissect a challenge just as she did a math problem, determining a solution. Charles had the gift of being able to envision, build and repair all sorts of things. His garage had a place for everything and everything in it was labeled. Despite his external gruffness, he would be the first to help a friend with a project or send homemade ice cream and cookies to the disabled young man across the street on the Fourth of July.
Both Hilda and Charles instilled in their children a love of reading; a favorite place was the Pine Hills library in Albany. Each of their children was expected to be serious about school and work to the best of their ability. Determination and effort to attain an education was celebrated regardless of age or grade earned. As their children had children, new generations were read to, tutored in math, taught to build, learned to wire structures, and had their term papers evaluated.
Fifty-seven years after they married, the teacher and the trainman passed away on the same day. As they wished, there was no wake in favor of a simple graveside service for family; more than 200 people attended. This scholarship celebrates their lives and their inspiration to others.
Funding for this scholarship is made possible through the generosity of the Wolffs’ daughter, Linda Weiss, a 1983 graduate of the college, director of the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, and a member of the College Council of SUNY Empire State College.
Fifty-seven years after they married, the teacher and the trainman passed away on the same day. This scholarship celebrates their lives and their inspiration to others.