A Magazine for Alumni and Friends

FallNott Memorial 2016

John Wold ’38 celebrates 100th birthday, donates $5M in memory of wife, Jane

Jane and John Wold ’38 in the Peter Irving Wold Center

he bonds between a man and his alma mater are strong. They are enduring.

But perhaps none have endured longer or grown stronger than the bonds between Union College and John S. Wold ’38. The Casper, Wyo., man, who celebrated his 100th birthday Aug. 31, has devoted his long life to making remarkable things happen.

Here at Union, and well beyond.

This summer, Wold made his most recent gift to the College—$5 million in memory of his wife, Jane, who died Nov. 18, 2015, at the age of 92. They were married for 70 years.

Its designation yet to be announced, the gift will further advance the extraordinary things that the Wolds have already done for Union. Together, they gave a $20 million gift that made possible the Peter Irving Wold Center, named for John’s father, who chaired the Physics Department from 1920 to 1945. The gift also established the John and Jane Wold Professorship in Religious Studies, supported Wold House, and established the John and Jane Wold Professorship in Geology.

Such unbridled generosity has been born of a bond that began to form long before Wold was ever a Dutchman.

A self-described “campus kid,” he grew up at Union. While his father led the Physics Department, the family resided in North College, in the building that is now Wold House. And on his daily walk home from school, young habitually visited the place where old Geology Department specimens were discarded.

“I would paw through those samples and eventually built up a pretty nice collection of minerals from around the world,” Wold told the Union College alumni magazine in 2003. “That dump was one of the first things that got me interested in geology.”

The birthday cake presented to John Wold ’38 by Wold House students

Wold ’10 (left) joined his grandfather, John Wold ’38, at an early celebration of his 100th birthday in June in Wold House.

He went on to play hockey at Union and was a St. Andrew’s University Exchange Scholar, and a member of Terrace Council, the Sigma Xi science honor society and Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.

Then he earned a master’s of science in geology from Cornell University before becoming one of the world’s most successful and innovative geologists.

And Wold, founder and president of Wold Oil Properties, Inc., has always made sure this success was not just his, but everyone’s. His generosity has done incredible things for science and science education at the likes of Casper College, Casey Eye Institute (macular degeneration research), University of Wyoming and Cornell University.

Jane, a prominent philanthropist in her own right, volunteered tirelessly. She helped with the founding of Casper’s Planned Parenthood chapter and was a past Casper YMCA board member, receiving the YMCA Distinguished Service Award in 2013.

John Wold ’38 met with the men’s ice hockey team when he visited campus in June as part of a tour and early 100th birthday celebration.

John Wold ’38 (seated, far right) played hockey as an undergraduate

Of why philanthropy has been so important, Wold posed this question to the Natrona County Republican Party in 2014: “As you look back on your life, what have you done to leave the world a better place to live in than when you came aboard?”

A trustee emeritus at Union, Wold is a former U.S congressman who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, first as a consulting physicist and later as a gunnery officer. He was instrumental in the exploration and development of the second largest talc mine in North America. He was also the genius behind trona production in southeastern Wyoming.

In 2015, he received the Energy Pioneer award from the Wyoming Natural Gas Fair Association, the latest in numerous accolades for his trailblazing creativity in the energy industry.

Union recognized Wold’s visionary achievements much earlier. First in 1999, with the Eliphalet Nott Medal, which honors the perseverance of distinguished alumni who have attained great distinction in their fields. And again in 2008, when Union bestowed an honorary doctor of science degree on Wold.

President Stephen C. Ainlay, Judith Gardner Ainlay and others at Union were also among the first to wish Wold the happiest of birthdays—a few months early—when he visited campus in June (Ainlay joined the family celebration in Casper in August, as well). Wold enjoyed a party hosted by the students of Wold House, a tour of the Wold Center and time spent with geology students and faculty, and the men’s ice hockey team. Joseph Wold ’10 even surprised his grandfatherWold didn’t know the younger man was planning to be there for it all.

 Fall  2016 table of contents