On Behalf of Thousands of Students (Ethan's speech at memorial service)

Shared by Wolfman Family on March 24, 2020
I stand here today, speaking on behalf of literally thousands of students, who were so fortunate to take a seat in Dr. Wolfman’s general chemistry course. They were so fortunate, because what they got was more than a professor. What they learned was more than knowledge of chemistry. They got a mentor, a friend, an advocate, someone who would go out of his way to champion them. They learned life lessons, and received career advice, supportive words, and an occasional reality check when needed.
So Dr Wolfman was so much more than a professor. But before talking about how he went beyond his job description, I do want to talk about how incredible he was at his job itself. As a professor, Dr. Wolfman was a performer. Starting with his famous morning playlist, he brought energy, intensity, and expertise to each lecture. And he taught to a high caliber. You couldn’t just know the chemistry, you had to know how to think. Dr Wolfman taught problem solving through critical thought, which is something that can be applied to every subject and every aspect of life. The rigor and high expectations of his course imbued a work ethic that is necessary for academic and professional success. Fortunately, gen chem is a course taken by predominantly Freshmen, meaning new college students learn the right way and the path to success from the start.
But as I was saying, Dr Wolfman went far beyond his job description. Dr Wolfman would champion his students – he would do anything he could to help them succeed. One example of this was the hundreds of letters of recommendation he wrote for students, many for medical school. And he wouldn’t just write them. He would reflect, and write from the heart, to beautifully articulate the merits of the student he was writing for. I think examples of this are best heard by testimonials. When coming up with this speech, a small group of us sought input from many former students. One student wrote, “I still remember my interview for medical school at Tufts. I walked in and my interviewer said he had no reason to interview me because he knew everything he needed to know about me from my letters of recommendation. He proceeded to read me bits and pieces of the letter, and I could hear Dr Wolfman’s voice in the words this man was speaking. I knew those words came from my biggest advocate in all of BC.”
Dr Wolfman did so much more than just write letters of recommendation. He was a reference for jobs, including for the job I’ve held since graduating. He also literally got people jobs. I think he placed 5 BC students at one Dermatologist practice. As one student put it, ““No one that knew him needed a Linkedin Page--he was a pathway to success”. 
Dr. Wolfman had a great sense of humor. I remember playing squash with him weekly for two years. A group of us would play: Dr. Wolfman, JP, Sacha, and myself. One time Willie joined us! Although the three young college students had quite the age advantage, he was an even match, and would beat us, as he put it, “with wisdom and experience”. He was a great player. But even better than his squash skills, was the little smirk he’d give when he would make a great shot. “Did you see that?” he would say. And we could only laugh as a man 40 years our senior routinely beat us.
Dr. Wolfman had a way of making everyone feel like family. Every year he and Deborah welcomed students to their house to enjoy delicious vegan food for an evening that would be the highlight of the semester. Dr. Wolfman advocated for his students not just professionally, but in all aspects of life. He often introduced students he thought would get along, forming life long friendships in the process. He also cared deeply for the mental health of his students; walking them to BC counseling services if they needed the comforting presence of someone they trusted.
Beyond the individual, Dr. Wolfman championed the Gateway program for first generation college students, teaching the course and committing additional time in the summer to better the program.
In life, you are only gifted a small group of people who will move mountains for you. Your parents, maybe close family, possibly a small handful of friends. Dr Wolfman moved mountains for all of his students. As one student wrote, “I would not have gotten to this point were it not for a select group of people along my journey. To put it bluntly, those people are Dr Wolfman and my mother. My two greatest supporters.”
Dr. Wolfman was as good a person as any of us will ever know. And his former students have had their paths forged by a great man, and know that we should honor him by doing good, by caring for one another, and by helping those in need. We know going forward that any act of good we create will be in some small form a tribute to the love Dr. Wolfman gave us. I can’t imagine a more beautiful, meaningful legacy.

Lifelong Friendship (Linda's speech read at memorial service)

Shared by Wolfman Family on March 24, 2020
First semester freshman year at Cornell, 46 years ago, I heard from my friends about this “amazing” chemistry TA they all had.   Word was he made the material easy to understand and he was fun. I hoped I would get him second semester.   Of course, the name of this TA was Neil Wolfman, and it was just the beginning of his life-long love for and affinity for imparting knowledge to others.  I never ended up having Neil as a TA, but because so many of my friends were “hanging” with him, I met him and quite quickly we became friends --- for life. Eventually our spouses became friends and our kids got to know each other.  The same reason that everyone liked to hang with Neil in college and beyond, was the reason he was a great friend. He was an active listener, he asked probing questions, and he was genuinely interested in YOU. Neil had a great memory and a wonderful sense of humor.  As I was writing this I wondered, where exactly did we meet…. who introduced us…and when exactly did that happen…Neil would have immediately known the answers.  And we would have LOL (and we did laugh out loud a lot) about some memory from that time.  I miss my friend.

A Great Dad (Celia Wolfman at Memorial Service)

Shared by Wolfman Family on March 24, 2020
My name is Celia and I’m the oldest Wolfman child. I realize I have a unique perspective in this room today as I am one of only three that can speak of what it was like growing up and having Neil as a dad. And as you can imagine, it was a lot of fun having him as our dad.
 He was a very involved father from the moment we were born. When our mother would work on the weekend, Neil was in charge of all three of us-which I’m sure wasn’t the easiest when you had three kids under the age of 5. But he made sure to do activities that got us out of the house. For example, we would get on the commuter train in Needham and ride it into town to get off, get ice cream in Copley and ride the train home. A 2 plus hour activity for ice cream -but when you’re a child what’s better than public transportation and dessert? And don’t think that once we were old enough to take care of ourselves, he stopped being involved. He helped proofread resumes for jobs, go on college tours, and coach us on how to speak to managers when applying for that first job.
Our dad was always a teacher, even at home. I remember him teaching me how to solve basic calculus problems. My sister, who has forever been more inquisitive and science minded than the rest of us, would often ask dad how things worked. Even at a young age, our dad explained to her how we see colors. He didn’t dumb down the material but rather tried to explain things in a way that would be accessible to our young minds.  
And while he did his fair share of looking over our homework, testing us on our spelling or other academic tasks, he was always the first to jump in and play with us. Our house used to be the epicenter for our neighborhood. The neighborhood kids would come over and dad would orchestrate large games of “Scully” or “3 Steps to Germany” or playing on the trampoline. One winter he set up a volleyball net in the living room and we would play with a soft beach ball in the house. How cool he was! And he was pretty “hip” as he would say. He was always current on his celebrity (and family/friends) gossip, sports and music. Nowadays, we would go to him for music advise!
My dad also thought it was very important to expose us to new things. Both him and my mother loved going to art museums. Our vacations were full of museum hopping. He also loved the theater and to his credit we grew up going to the best shows whether it was in town at the Wang Center or in NYC. He also loved to travel which was hampered by the fact that he despised flying. So every summer we would go on a family vacation that was within a 10 hour driving radius from Dover. We would travel to new cities, hit up all the museums and then dine in the local vegetarian spot. And if the city had a baseball team, he would take us. He loved baseball. And although he grew up a few blocks away from the Yankees Stadium, he was a Mets fan growing up and later a Red Sox fan and most recently a Cubs fan. 
Our father has taught us a lot. He was always a proponent of getting involved. He said that he couldn’t worry about the big political issues as they were too big and far away for him to control but he would focus on what he could affect. He could influence us (his family), his community (Dover or Pfizer) and his students (B.C.). Given the turnout today as well as the inundation of emails, letters and support over the past year, he succeeded on making a difference. 
Another lesson he preached to us was for us to branch out, explore places, and try new things. We were all discouraged from staying in Boston for college. He always said that going to Cornell and away from the city he grew up in exposed him to a new world (for example, he learned Jews live in Tennessee). 
If you ever spent more than 5 minutes talking to my dad, you would know he was a people person. He knew how to engage with people. He would often tell us that the art of conversation was dead and that people don’t listen to one another; they just listen for when they can talk. But my dad wasn’t like that. He loved asking questions and getting to know people. There is a chair in our family room that was known as the “hot seat”.
After college, when our friends would come over to visit, my dad would have them sit in this chair and ask them tons of questions about what they are doing, how they like their job, life, boyfriend, etc and how their families/parents/dogs are doing. He really cared about the people who were in his life and by extension, the people that were in our lives. 
His life lessons will forever be engrained with us and part of our core. It is my hope that we will teach our children who will then share with their children, not only what a great man he was but also the values that defined him.

Reflections of a Colleague & Friend (Jill Wright at memorial service)

Shared by Wolfman Family on March 2, 2020
Hello, my name is Jill Wright.  Neil was not only my supervisor but a friend and honorary member of the family.  Deborah asked me to speak about Neil regarding his time at GI/Wyeth/Pfizer. Any one of us could tell stories about the things Neil did and said that would make us all laugh - from him making the rounds to talk shop or family with everyone on Friday afternoons (or any other day of the week) - we truly did not need instant message/Chat with Neil around.  To all the lunch conversations that covered any and all topics; nothing was off the table. Lucky for us, the rules for what you could or could not say was not around at that time or we would all have huge HR folders. But let’s be honest, we learned a lot about each other’s cultures and religion from these conversations, and by sharing - we grew even closer.

We not only respected Neil for his intellect but also for his desire to help and mentor everyone he met.  He truly wanted to help others because he cared. We all have stories where Neil has impacted our lives specifically, but it was the things that he did, which were not required of his job, that earned him the greatest respect from all.  Examples include: arranging a memorial service for Barb Sibley and everything he did for Xiaoke when Xiaoke was diagnosed with cancer; hospital visits, talking to doctors about treatment plans, trying to get Xiaoke’s wife a Visa to the US and organizing the memorial service.  He did not do these things for selfish reasons, he did them because he truly cared about others and he wanted the best for everyone.

I know that one of Neil’s hardest days at Pfizer was in February 2012 when he had the unpleasant job of laying off part of his group including me.  A week later Neil and I went out to lunch at the Cheesecake factory (I let Neil paid for the meal) and even though it was not Valentine’s day the waitress asked if we were there celebrating anything.  In true Neil fashion, he was able to take his most difficult day at Pfizer and make a waitress uncomfortable by informing her that I was not his wife, his wife did not know he was here and that he had fired me a week ago.  She left not knowing what to believe and we both had a good laugh.

Neil would also make us laugh by telling us stories about how protective his mom was, and he would give parenting advice stating, “don’t raise your kids as I was raised, or they will turn out like me”.  He would always laugh as he made this statement. BUT - would it be so bad to raise a child that was not only respected for his intellect but also respected for his selfless actions. Neil was caring, sympathetic, and showed empathy.  He always helped others. I would be proud if my kids were raised to have these same characteristics that Neil always displayed.

Reflections of a Lifelong Friend (Howie Liss at memorial service)

Shared by Wolfman Family on March 1, 2020
Neil Wolfman was a brilliant, compassionate and funny man who I was fortunate to have as a friend for most of my life.

Although we both attended Bronx High School of Science, Neil and I did not get to know each other well until we began college at NYU in the Bronx. We were in first year chemistry class together where I quickly learned how brilliant Neil was. He rarely took notes, absorbed everything that we were taught, excelled at exams, and tutored his friends. As chemistry majors, we were in class together through college, where Neil continued to exhibit how very bright he was. 

We played a fair amount of tennis through the years and although Neil did not start playing until he was in his twenties he excelled largely due to his very intelligent play.

For most of us commuters, NYU was an extension of high school and we made our own entertainment. Neil was the primary entertainer. He was hysterical. He could have given Rodney Dangerfield a run for his money. He would hold court and have our small group of friends in hysterics. Much of his humor was self deprecating. Neil was the only child of holocaust survivors and lived in a one bedroom apartment with very sweet, older parents. He would, hysterically, describe his lack of privacy since his bedroom was the living room. He told us that his only toy was string that he was told to cut up and then pretend that each piece was a different subway train. He described how much of his social life revolved around attending burial society meetings with his parents and extended family. We would sit outside the student center and openly discuss everything including our personal lives. Neil was a great listener and advisor. 

We developed a closeness that continued over our lifetime even though we lived in different cities, were both very busy and, at times, wouldn't speak for months. Neil was an extremely loyal friend. When I went through my divorce in 2008 he would call and check on me and was extremely supportive.

On one very memorable evening during college, Neil and I were set up on a blind date a distance away on Long Island. This date was presented as a huge opportunity for two young men. We drove the long drive together in my car and took the girls out to dinner. We then drove back to one of the girl's houses. I parked the car. One of the girls invited us in for coffee and cake. Before Neil got to respond, I quickly said that I was not interested in coffee or cake. The evening ended right then. I can still hear Neil asking " What were you thinking?" I deserved a punch in the nose but Neil was pretty kind even in his criticism. We discussed this evening many times in our lives and I laughed out loud every time.

When we spoke through the years it was clear how much Neil loved Debra and their children. He discussed the intellectual challenge and at times the frustration of his biochemical research. He told me repeatedly how rewarding his teaching position was and how thrilled he was to be appreciated by his students and to receive awards for teaching. He loved his students and the relationships that he developed with them. Teaching at Boston College was an enormous highlight of his life.

Life is short but it was much too short for Neil. Neil didn't deserve the suffering that he went through. I wish that Debra and the rest of Neil's family could have enjoyed many more years with him. However, Neil enriched the lives of so many people and will be fondly remembered by so many for the rest of their lives. Neil will be sorely missed by me. I am very fortunate to have been friends with Neil Wolfman, a wonderful human being.

More Than A Game of Squash (JP, BC grad)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 13, 2020
Professor Wolfman, has been a light in my life for the 6 years I met him. Ironically, when I first met Professor Wolfman fall semester 2014, he gave me so much anxiety in class that I would respond to him by calling him, "coach"-- the only other person to induce that much anxiety in me until then. In a matter of months, he became one of my greatest advocates, and most dear mentor. 
On Sunday mornings, I cannot help but remember getting up from my dorm to start my day with him to play squash-- first one to 7 games wins, and even though he would accuse me of letting him win I never did :) he really was just good. But I want to bring up the squash for another reason... 
My sophomore year, one could say I was going off the deep end. At the time, my mother had been given a scary medical diagnosis, and simply put I began to care less-- about everything. What was really scary is that the changes that were happening in me were things I was not able to notice, but he did. On Sunday-- via just playing squash-- he noticed things were off and I needed help. Not only did he confront me directly on everything, he contacted my friends, my other professors, mentors etc. he went ABOVE and BEYOND for me in a time I was not even aware I needed the help. I cannot imagine how many more stories like mine are out there with him. 
That really was just a snap chat of one moment. There was an Easter where He, Mrs. Wolfman, my classmate Isa and I went to dinner on E street in Washington DC, only because we were there at the same time and he was willing to spend some extra time with us. I have endless stories of meeting him for a quick bite, or even just standing in a line with him just to get advice on some menial thing of everyday life. 
October 2017, professor Wolfman was the FIRST person I called after I was admitted to medical school. Person 1. At every interview I had, I brought him up, it was key to bring him up because I would not have been sitting in those interviews were it not for him. Not only did he believe in me, he pushed and pushed. Every person I talk to today know that among the things I say most often is: "Yes, I put the work in to be where I am, but I would not have gotten to this point were it not for a select group of people along my journey." To put it bluntly, I was referring to Professor Wolfman and my mother. My two greatest supporters. 
Lots of people would talk about his 'tough love,' approach, but I don't know. I would say he told us things how they were, but that his love was big, tender, and very very mushy under the right circumstances.

A Cherished Friend (Steve, friend)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 13, 2020
Neil Wolfman was a cherished friend for over 25 Years. We built a synagogue together, enjoyed many social events together, and just the two of us spent countless hours together. The latter is what I will remember most dearly about him, and want to share this with you. After my divorce, Neil took it upon himself to console me in a way that was unparalleled by any of my friends or family. Every Saturday after shul, he faithfully walked me around the Natick mall in winter and around the streets of Dover in the warmer weather, listening to my unhappiness for hours on end. He was a listener, and very good at it. He did not interrupt, he did not offer platitudes, he did not try to simplify or trivialize my feelings and only occasionally commented with enormous empathy and without being judgmental. This walking and listening went on for many months, and it got me through a very difficult time in my life... Neil Wolfman was many fine things during the terribly shortened span of his life, but to me he lived and exemplified the definition of what a friend is. I will never forget his kindness and depth of feeling.

Memories at Genetics Institute (Bonnie & Rod, scientists & friends)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 14, 2020
Neil set a great example to others on how to conduct their lives with integrity, empathy, compassion and honest but supportive criticism. Neil was a memorable character and friend to both of us from the “GI days”.  We have so many fond memories of him, his collaboration, his scientific capabilities and achievements, and his wry sense of humor. We want to share just a couple of the many stories we could tell, that convey how he touched our lives.

I (Rod) first got to know Neil when he joined my lab in C1985, when GI moved from the Boston Lying In Hospital to Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge and he remained in my lab until approximately 2000 at the time of an internal reorganization related to Wyeth’s ownership of GI.  Neil was an extremely bright, hardworking research science of high integrity, who was always keen to suggest new project opportunities for the laboratory due to his wide range of interests and extraordinary ability to network with many people inside and outside GI.  He was also prepared to take on less glamorous projects that were vital to the success of GI.  He always seemed to minimize his major contributions in the lab but was very willing to give praise to other more junior people.  On the lighter side, Neil was a great storyteller and impersonator and everyone he knew was in peril of being a victim of his impersonations!  But his wry, self-deprecating sense of humor belied his compassion and real concern for others.

I (Bonnie) first encountered Neil at GI shortly after joining the company in 1989.  We were both working on the BMP-2 team and I had to present data on monoclonal antibodies that my department had developed.  The data were inconsistent with what was expected, and, in the course of my presentation, it became apparent that the antibodies we had developed were most likely not to the target protein, but to an impurity.  The team was disappointed, and I left the meeting feeling discouraged and humiliated.  A few hours later, Neil showed up at my office door and just asked “how can I help”?  He offered to provide some purified materials that helped put the project (and most likely my career at GI!) back on track.  There are many similar experiences with Neil’s collaboration, but I always remembered this first instance of the generosity he was willing to extend to a new employee who was in danger of failing. 

Way back in 1991 Neil acted as matchmaker for us, helping us start a romantic relationship with each-other that has lasted 29 years and counting.  Long after, when we ran into Neil he would ask how things were going with us and would typically remark that he was pleased we were still together and considered this one of his greatest achievements (as usual, down-playing all of his other ones). 

A Father-Figure on Campus (Tanya, BC grad)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 14, 2020
Prof Wolfman was such a kind, genuine, hardworking professor who truly cared about each and every one of his students. As you know, I used to call him Dad because he would care for me like a daughter, pushing me to new heights (though I do love my biological father very much). 
I remember signing up for my classes, everyone said "make sure you don't take the Chemistry class with Wolfman, he's such a tough professor and plus he never does multiple choice!" I'm not sure if I wanted the challenge (or it just fit better in my schedule), but I decided to take his course. Oh man was it difficult, plus if he caught you with any phone-like item you got called out and kicked out! I really wanted to do medicine, and was pushing myself in all studies during the start of BC. Midway through the Chemistry course, Prof Wolfman (Dad) met with me just to "hear my story." He wanted to know where the top percent of his class came from and what he could do to help their journey. We ended up having a lot in common, with foreign our parents, passion in the sciences, and, of course, our abrupt NY attitudes. He tried to find me internships for that summer, and when those didn't work, still said yes to every letter of rec I asked for.  
 Then sophomore year came and the opportunity to apply to Tufts Early Assurance for medical school. This was the last year they were offering this program and I remember Dad calling me into his office to see what my goals were for this year. He goes "well how about the Tufts program." I weakly responded saying maybe, but I think my chances are better if I try Upstate NY's early medical school program since it was easier to get into and close to home. He gave me one of those Wolfman faces and said, "Are you stupid?! It's just an application, what do you got to lose!!" He then gave me a pep talk that I was much smarter and stronger than I thought, and I had a good chance of getting in. I didn't see it, but he said that he did. Reluctantly, I decided to apply, mostly to never see that face of "how stupid are you" again. 
Sophomore year was tough, but I met with Dad along the way to make sure I was doing alright. Before each next step of the Tufts application, we would meet to give me another pep talk and push me forward. That summer when I got in, he was one proud dad. Every time I would see him, he would go on and on: "I mean can you believe it??!!! You're in! You're in medical school! And at Tufts too!" I can still picture his arms waving and bragging about this. 
The last time I saw him was visiting his (your) house after chemo. He was shocked I drove all the way to Dover, but after so many memories with someone, how could I not? When he stepped outside, he did look thinner than before and I almost didn't recognize him. However, as soon as he started talking and telling me to hurry up and get inside, I knew Wolfman was still there. There was an energy about him that never faded, no matter how tired or sick he was. I sometimes wonder if I would be where I am today if it weren't for him believing in me much more than I believed in myself. I am eternally grateful for all his love and advice. 

Neil's Legacy in Science (Rich Martinelli, biochemist)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 14, 2020
Neil [once] confessed to me at that time that his biggest professional disappointment was that there was no FDA approved drug that he could point to that he had worked on.  [As a fellow pharmaceutical biochemist], I certainly could appreciate his disappointment. But I think the jury may still be out on this. 

The only time our professional paths crossed after leaving Cornell was when our two companies, Pfizer and Ensemble Therapeutics were collaborating to find inhibitors of a protein called interleukin 17 as a treatment for psoriasis.  Neil had published research that he had done on the basic biochemistry of interleukin 17 and its role in inflammation disorders.  Neil was the project leader for Pfizer in our collaboration to find compounds that would inhibit interleukin 17 and I was in charge of cellular assays to validate the activity of these compounds.  As is typically the case in drug discovery programs, there were many twists and turns and ultimately the program was acquired by Novartis.  To my knowledge they are still working on this program at Novartis.  Then just last week, I learned that other companies, I think including Pfizer included, have begun to work on this program after the structures of the compounds we discovered were published by the patent office.  So there is still a realistic chance that something that we worked on together may end up becoming a drug.

My prediction is this: someday one of the students Neil has taught or a colleague who benefited from his example will go on to take the knowledge and wisdom imparted and translate that into a new drug.  This will be his professional legacy.  I’m confident that this prediction will soon be fulfilled.

The Chemistry of Love (Alyson, BC grad)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 13, 2020
My very first class of college was MWF 9 AM General Chemistry, in Merkert Hall... I took notes earnestly, did my problem sets and studied, but the subject was just lost on me.  So, I started going to twice weekly office hours.  They were for two hours and I would often stay longer; they became more like tutoring sessions.  I wanted to do well for myself, and for my GPA, but I felt I really wanted to do well for Dr. Wolfman too.  I so appreciated his interest in me.  His motto referenced in the Heights announcement "try to do the right thing" pervaded his approach to teaching.  Both semesters, I'm pretty sure that my grade reflected Dr. Wolfman's dedication to me as his student and sense of responsibility and pride in all of us.
During the first semester of class, a young guy also began sitting closer and closer to the second row, second seat in Merkert... Apparently, whereas I was taking notes voraciously, he just wanted to get closer and closer to me, and not closer and closer to Dr. Wolfman!  (And I was oblivious, and even went so far as to reintroduce myself multiple times to him.)  Dr. Wolfman noticed though.  He would, in almost a paternal way, grill me about that guy during Office Hours, and told me to bring him!  That guy, Andrew, and I started dating, and according to Dr. Wolfman, we'd hold hands under the lecture hall table...
During Office Hours, I would talk about Andrew, but also about my fears that medical school wouldn't be tenable since I was having such a hard time with some of my premed courses.  Dr. Wolfman told me to never, ever give up.  And to not listen to naysayers.  I think he respected my perseverance and rewarded that with unwavering support.  On one occasion when I didn't need extra help, I skipped office hours, and received a call saying, "Alyson?  Neil Wolfman.  Just making sure you weren't run over by the Newton Bus" in a way only he could say and get away with...
So, maybe second only to our immediate family, Dr. Wolfman was the most genuinely excited person when we became engaged and married.  He even came to our wedding!  We were thrilled to have him there.
In the years after undergrad and graduate school, I got very involved in clinical trials, personalized medicine, oncology research and oncology diagnostics...  I worked my way up into a leadership position and felt like I had made the right move career-wise.  Once I emailed Dr. Wolfman about that, and he said that he hoped I was proud of myself and that he was proud of me... that his affection for all of his students wasn't based on grades or letters following their names-- that he felt responsible for helping us see the greater picture.  We had a mutual respect and admiration, and had connected.  He would put me in touch with other kids struggling in his class, or who were questioning whether medical school was right for them, so that I could champion them the way he did.  Through this causal advising process, he continued to "teach" me by helping me realize that, sometimes, it just took one person to tell you that you could do it, that you were smart, that you were capable, to see that in yourself.  He was that person for me.
Andrew and I have been married 11 years, and have three children (all 4-years-old and younger)! Dr. Wolfman talked all the time about his own family, what a supportive wife and fantastic mother Deborah has been, and about just how proud of his children he was.  He was so excited once Andrew and I started our own family.  
So, you see, it's not an understatement that, except for Andrew, Dr. Wolfman had the most profound effect on me during my time at Boston College, and that this has resounded all these years since.  He will remain one of the most honest, fair and decent men either of us has met.

Grad School & Beyond (Rich Martinelli, Cornell roommate & friend)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 14, 2020
I first met Neil nearly 45 years ago (hard to believe) when we both arrived at Cornell University as part of the incoming class of graduate students in the Department of Chemistry. Neil and I became close friends and would be roommates during four years of graduate school.  In our experience graduate school was a demanding taskmaster with its regimen of two years of graduate courses followed by graduate research, with that regimen requiring all the time and energy that could be devoted to it.  It felt like a struggle and a sacrifice.  But it was also exciting.  The decades after World War II witnessed an explosion of new developments in the fields of biochemistry and biology with implications for medicine.  Not only would we be immersing ourselves in the study of these fields, but we would be learning from scientists in the forefront of the work.  I likened it to being present at creation, when a new world was being born and we were witnessing it first hand from those who were elucidating the rules governing this new world.  But it seemed to be in the nature of the work that long days, weeks, and months were a required investment.    Only then would there come a breakthrough, a Eureka moment.  The experiment would work and realization dawned that you had uncovered something new, a discovery, the “truth”, or maybe just your truth, but possibly something that no one else in the world knew at that time.  It could be exhilarating, even intoxicating.  Neil and I shared these feelings.
In the first two years at Cornell, teaching assistant responsibilities provided something of a relief from course and lab work.  From the very first Neil relished these teaching duties as did I.  I think for Neil, apart from the act of teaching itself, it was the opportunity for him to meet and interact with his students as persons.  Cornell was a great school but the undergraduates taking chemistry courses seemed to be very stressed.  It was if whole careers were riding on each exam.  So being a teaching assistant required being a counselor, a friend, and cheerleader, in addition to being a teacher.  Neil excelled at all aspects of this role.  After the first couple years of graduate school our course work was finished and we were no longer teaching assistants, the whole of our time was devoted to thesis research in the lab.  The diversion of the day came after trudging home from the lab late at night and watching the New York City news broadcast on WPIX and then watching reruns of the “Odd Couple”.   
One of the striking things about Neil that anyone who knew him can attest to was that he loved life.  No, he didn’t just love life, he savored it.  Mainly, it was his sincere enjoyment of people but it also included food, music, and film.  Left unresolved in my mind, were the relative positions of David Bowie and Bob Dylan in Neil’s pantheon of music icons.  And then there was that upstart, Bruce Springsteen.  Neil actually did a stint as a DJ at a local FM radio station in Ithaca, where he excelled at playing cuts from artists, that when others heard them, marveled at how good they were and wondered why they had never heard them before.  Thankfully we both survived the disco era unscathed.  I think too that Neil would have loved to be a film maker.  He loved to attend movies and then discuss them, it was an event.  To this day I believe I could list most to the movies we attended together.  Woody Allen was one of his heroes, and he anxiously awaited the release of all his new movies.  If I recall correctly, Neill’s alma mater, NYU, had a good school of film, and I attended such NYU products as “Blood Simple” with him. 
Neil was always a “people” person and solicitous of their well being, as a few following examples illustrate.  While we were in Boston, again living life to the fullest, Neil decided to attend the performance of the opera “Carmen”.  Always wanting to include others, he invited me to attend with him and Deborah, and bought three tickets.  Mulling it over, I decided to invite a date as well.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a seat that was adjacent to the other three; the other seat was a couple rows away.  Oh, well.  But at the intermission of the performance, Neil insisted that he swap seats so that my date and I could sit next to each other.  Another time, Neil told me about a candidate who had been interviewed for a position at his company.  When the interviewers met to compare notes, someone offered that the candidate did not seem a particularly happy person, as if this was a disqualification.  But Neil spoke up in defense of the candidate with a quip “Oh yeah, because everyone here is in a constant state of euphoria.”
And now our hearts are broken, with this loss.  I feel as though a great light has gone from the world, and the world is a dimmer, duller place, and certainly less fun.  Missing is that twinkle in Neil’s eyes when he was engaged in conversation, especially listening to the personal stories.  But for me it’s more than the entertainment and zest for life that Neil brought to the world.  I’ve lost someone I could count on, someone whose opinion and insight I valued, both as a scientist and a friend.  I always felt that I could talk to Neil about anything in life and he would understand.  He was a good scientist but even a better friend.

Life-changing Advice (Molly, BC grad)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 13, 2020
I was a Freshman in his class, a slightly-above-mediocre student, who went on a whim into his office hours one day to ask a question about our most recent exam. We started talking, and he asked me about my life, where I came from, what I was passionate about, etc. I wouldn't realize this until years later, but he saw potential in me that I didn't see in myself at that time. I kept in touch with him, and he often counseled me in the big decisions I faced as I tried to decide what to do with my future. I studied English and Biology, and found myself starting to look into medicine as a career. One day, I went into his office to chat, and talk through pursuing a career in medicine. I thought that was what I wanted at the time, but I was also hesitant for a reason I couldn't figure out on my own. 
He asked me whether I was hesitant because a part of me wasn't truly passionate about medicine, or whether I was afraid of failing. 
Turns out I was afraid of failing. And I never would have realized this without his help.  I think about that Q every single day, and it has informed every single decision of my life - Am I pursuing passion, or a fear of failure? Those words have helped me in countless situations - academics, friendships, choosing to move back home to MN for school, choosing to exit an abusive relationship after several years, and the list goes on... I would not be in medicine, my life passion, if it weren't for Dr. Wolfman.  

Improving Student Mental Health (Charlotte, BC grad)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 14, 2020
My first day of Freshman year I went to general chemistry and Professor Wolfman immediately welcomed me, giving me a familiar look, letting me know his care for my brother and now me. My freshman year, as many's are, was bumpy and mentally exhausting. I had pretty severe mental health problems mainly involving anxiety and panic attacks. I tried to hide it but when you are running out of Devlin 008 almost every chemistry lecture, your professor is likely to catch on. I finally told Professor Wolfman in January of my freshman year what was going on. I explained the panic attacks and how they felt like I couldn't breathe, and I was losing control. He didn't give me a look of pity and he didn't ever minimize my mental health problems. Instead, he listened. He listened as much as he could. And when he finished being a listening ear, he went into full professor mode. How are we going to fix this? What are we already doing? Where can I help? It was the first time at BC that I felt like I was supported. I felt safe. 
Professor Wolfman helped me in any way he possibly could. And he didn't coddle me because he knew that wouldn't help. He very much took my mental health struggle seriously and helped me find the right kind of help. He also would throw in some much needed humor. Some of my favorite memories of his humorous help were: 1) him e-mailing me with just the sentence "you need help" 2) him telling me to go home and just sit outside on the beach and breathe in the air to fix everything. 3) him saying "maybe you should just try drinking bleach" (he knew he could say that to me, as I have a very dark sense of humor).
After receiving treatment for anxiety from a cognitive behavioral therapist, my quality of life significantly improved. I actually was given the opportunity to give a speech at BC about mental health, and I obviously had to include the impact of Professor Wolfman on my journey. Here is an excerpt of what I said about him, as he deserves a lot of credit for helping me: 
"Come spring semester, it became unbearable again. I was sitting in chemistry lecture one morning and almost immediately had to leave the classroom, spending another morning hyperventilating in the Devlin basement bathroom. I came back into my lecture at the end to apologize to my professor for leaving and I broke down. Luckily, he was incredibly supportive and urged me to go see a cognitive behavioral therapist. It was very refreshing to see that my professor, who taught a class of 100+ students, cared so much about me. It helped me realize that there are so many resources that can help with mental health problems other than counseling services. I finally decided to go see a cognitive behavioral therapist thanks to my professor."

A Great Scientist and Supervisor (Mary, colleague & friend)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 13, 2020
Neil and I first worked together at Genetics Institute in the DNA diagnostics program, so I knew him for over 30 years.  He always cared about the people with whom he worked.  In fact, when I was out on maternity leave in 1986 for the birth of my first son, he came by to personally tell me that our program  had been brought to an end. This was so thoughtful of him.

Neil and I shared some scientific adventures.  In fact, on one weekend, Celia, Hannah and Willie came to my house to play with my two sons, while Neil went into the lab to finish a key experiment in purifying a protein of shared interest. 

Neil went on to do groundbreaking work on bone morphogenic proteins, and was a world expert on BMP protein biochemistry.  He and his team later made key discoveries about cytokine proteins.  He was an outstanding protein biochemist and always a knowledge resource for our entire department.

Neil was one of the most caring supervisors that I worked with.  He worried about career development opportunities for not only his folks, but for others in the department.  Every year he would offer to get a lower salary increase himself, and propose that the money be used to raise the salary of others whom he felt needed the money more than he did.  That is who he was.

Recently, Neil had frequent lunches with Kyri, Matt and me.  Although we reminisced about our shared work, we also heard much from Neil about his love of teaching at Boston College.

And we heard about his family, who were so important to him. We heard of your travels, your special birthdays, graduations, your weddings, your new jobs and he shared his excitement with the news of grandchildren on their way.  He loved you all, and shared that with us.

Neil truly made the world a better place.

Inspiration to Soldier On (John, BC grad)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 13, 2020
My very first exam at Boston College was in Professor Wolfman's General Chemistry I. I can distinctly remember walking into Devlin the morning of the exam to Professor Wolfman in an all-black suit and a playlist of music that perfectly matched the already tense tone of the room. The playlist ended just in time for the exam to begin, as Professor Wolfman had planned.

I knew I failed the exam as soon as I turned it in, and I left the classroom feeling like I did not deserve to be a pre-med student. After I got the exam back, Professor Wolfman took the time to sit down with me and go over what went wrong. We discussed the ways that I could improve my study habits, better manage my test anxiety, and he convinced me not to give up.

I will be starting med school in July, and so much of that is due to Professor Wolfman going above and beyond as a professor and mentor. He had such a profound impact on me and so many other students. We have lost a wonderful person, but he left a legacy that will be felt for many years to come.

Seeing Whole People, Not Just Students (Sam, BC grad)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 13, 2020
In what was the most distressing year of my life, characterized by intense depression, an eating disorder, compulsive exercise and still more, my Introductory Chemistry course with Professor Wolfman was always a bright moment in my day. This was despite his course being a significant contributing factor to my distress; maybe you've heard, he had a reputation as one of the toughest teachers at BC. However, he was also one of the most universally beloved, admired, and ever-present to his students. 
I remember one day, before class on a particularly hard day for me, Professor Wolfman took a few minutes before lecture to say that our mental health should be our highest priority and offered his personal support to anyone who was struggling. I approached him some days later after receiving a poor grade on an exam, and before I knew it I had started sharing my pain with him, and soon found myself in BC's counseling office--Professor Wolfman walked me directly there. I attribute my healing and eventual graduation from BC to his care and initiative.
Despite being a rather mediocre student in his class, he remembered my face and name throughout my succeeding three years at BC, and always waved and smiled when encountering me on campus. He was a teacher of the highest caliber, but he was so much more than that too.

Chem Class: My Unexpected Happy Place (Isabel, BC grad)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 13, 2020
I still remember my first day, he was my very first college class and as any freshmen who had been “warned” by upper classman of just how difficult his class was, I was terrified. Little did I know I was walking into the greatest blessing of my college experience. His class began every morning with a playlist, I would walk in with most of the “breakfast club” already seated. He would give me a high five, or come over for a quick chat, then Sophie and Claire would come over and give me a hug. And I can’t emphasize enough how special those mornings were. I was so naive, I had no idea just how special Professor Wolfman was and how dear to my heart he would become. It goes without saying that he was the person that influenced me the most at BC. He believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself but most importantly he made me feel welcomed and smart, and he made me feel at home. 
He was there not only for me academically, but in my personal life as well. I would cry to him and desperately seek advice when I didn’t know what to do. It was in his class that I met my group of friends, and it was him who took the afternoon off to help me when I didn’t know what to do for a friend. Or who brought me his dog to office hours because I said I was homesick and missed my dogs. He would call me when Logan was visiting so that I could hold his adorable grandson. And when he got my boyfriend at the time as his advisee for medical school, he jokingly scared him about never harming me or breaking my heart. From the countless dinner parties at your beautiful home, to casual lunches on campus and panic sessions in his office, there was not a day that went by when he wasn't changing our lives. 
When I was applying to medical school, at my interview in Tufts, as I sat down and my interviewer said that he had no reason to interview me because he already knew I was going to be an amazing doctor because of what my letters of recommendation said about me. As my interviewer began to read me bits and pieces of the letter, I knew exactly who had written it. None but Professor Wolfman himself. I am 100% certain that I am who I am today and where I am today because of his heart of gold. He largely defines my entire BC experience and I will forever hold his memory so dear in my heart. 

Actually Cared (Riley, BC grad)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 13, 2020
I had Professor Wolfman for Chemistry 101 my freshman year. In our final class I’ll never forget him taking a moment to speak earnestly with us and say: “Whatever you end up doing, I would love to know. Drop me a line senior year."
Admiring the heartfelt gesture, I remembered to reach out to him before graduating and let him know I was on a wildly different path to the one that had led me to him (started pre-med, ended up going to train as an actor).
Thinking his inbox was probably bombarded with emails like these, I was not only surprised to hear back from him but flattered he seemed genuinely touched to have heard back from me. His enthusiastic reply was filled with earnest and admiring words of encouragement. Words I desperately needed to hear as I plunged myself into the unsure waters of life beyond college. Words I still remember 10 years on.
Amazing how one class and one email can say so much about one man.

His Love of Teaching: Memory of a Moment (Brendan, BC student)

Shared by Wolfman Family on February 13, 2020
It is Exam Day (9/28/2019). I walk into Devlin 008, an upbeat song plays in the background.  He was always playing music to start the class.  I take my seat and take a breath.  I’m nervous.  Anyone who’s heard anything about this course knows that Professor Wolfman is a real tough professor.  He gives me a nod.  Then I hear a bell and a strum of the guitar.  It’s one of my favorite songs, Show Me What I’m Looking For by Carolina Liar.  We both start smiling.  He can see my feet tapping and we hold eye contact for some time.  His eyes begin to wander around the room.  I keep looking at him.  Observing his visible emotions, I see such a passion for teaching and a gratitude for being in such a position.  He is singing, eyes beaming.  They are glossy, nearly sending a tear down his cheek.  It's not sadness that I see, it’s love.  He loves teaching and everything that comes with it. 

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