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Jeremiah "Jerry" Wolpert 



1920-1949


Profession:
Political Scientist
Educator

Student

1939-40
1940-41
1941 Summer Work Camp
1941-42 Fall Quarter (until February 1942)

Graduation

1942  Politics
Examiner, Stringfellow Barr, President, St. John’s College

See also Sue Spayth Riley Wolpert

 

Jerry Wolpert was born in New York City and lived in West Orange, New Jersey where he attended high school. He possibly heard about Black Mountain through Louis Adamic’s article, "Education on a Mountain," which was published in both Harper’s and Reader’s Digest. His former wife, Sue Spayth Riley, also a Black Mountain student, recalls, "He, as many of us, was looking for a progressive, more open and creative college education."

Jerry Wolpert is remembered by his fellow students as one of Black Mountains true "intellectuals." Sue Riley recalls, "Jerry was a voracious reader – politics, philosophy, history, but also literature – he loved music, classical." At Black Mountain, Wolpert took classes in history, psychology, classics, writing, drama, economics, psychology, philosophy, political theory, Nineteenth Century English Essay, political theory and institutions, philosophy of history, history of science, political institutions, and law and politics – among others. Along with Fred Stone, Tommy Brooks, Lucian Marquis and others, he was a member of the "Gashouse Gang," a group of students who reveled in being noisy and spoofing the overly serious idealism that often permeated the college atmosphere. Sue Riley writes of Wolpert’s time at Black Mountain, "Jerry participated in the community-wide discussions, and was very outspoken. In his last year (after I left) I believe he was the student representative to the governing council.... Jerry was very moral, very ethical.... (perhaps the sign of the age I was, too). He often came across as a ‘tough guy,’ but was really very sensitive, soft and sort of spiritual inside."

In June, after graduation, Wolpert married a former Black Mountain student, Sue Spayth, and in September 1942 he was drafted into the army. During the war he was stationed in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. In 1945 he received a medical discharge and enrolled at Columbia University on the G.I. Bill for his Master’s degree in Political Science.

After graduation Wolpert moved with his wife and small son to Buffalo, New York where he had a teaching position in sociology at the University of Buffalo. In 1949, he was struck with bulbar polio and died within days. His death marked the end of a promising career. His article "The Myth of Revolution," had been published in the July 1948 issues of Ethics. At the time of his death his first son Thomas was eleven months old. His son Jeremiah was born three months after his death.

His widow moved to New Jersey where both of their parents lived.

Jerry Wolpert at Black Mountain College. Courtesy North Carolina State Archives, Black Mountain College Papers, 226.1.

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