UC Berkeley held a memorial for my dad on April 11, 2015. Here are most of the eulogies, as well as a couple that arrived later on.
J. Merrill Shanks, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
In addition to Ray’s contributions as a teacher, mentor, and scholar, and the many occasions in which Barbara and Ray entertained the rest of us in their home, I would like to share some other memories about the Ray I knew — in five stages of a relationship which began in the mid-1960’s.
First Stage: At Michigan
I met Ray as a graduate student assistant working for the new Inter-university Consortium for Political Research IICPR) within the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. The people I worked for told me Stanford was a crucial ally in building the new Consortium, and that a faculty member named Wolfinger need some computer-based assistance in analyzing data from what were then known as the “Michigan election studies.”
At that time, the Michigan Institute had completed a rudimentary set of programs for statistical analysis of survey data, but none of the other general-purpose packages we know today (SPSS, SAS, Stata, SDA or R) were available. Given that situation, I sent Ray many boxes of printed cross-tabulations based on his specifications – before I actually talked to him about professional or personal matters.
Second Stage: Early Years in California
In my last year at Michigan, I received an unexpected offer to join the Berkeley department of political science– instead of going to Yale, which had been my intention. While I was visiting Berkeley, and before I made a final decision, Ray tried to convince me to come to Stanford instead. Since Aaron Wildavsky, Herb McClosky, and Nelson Polsby were already at Berkeley, that suggestion did go very far. But it was an interesting way to get better acquainted.
Soon after I arrived in Berkeley, Ray also joined the Berkeley faculty, and we became allies in various departmental and personnel-related activities. And, in 1970, someone that Barbara and Ray knew asked if a group of us would provide some survey-based advice to the campaign of Jess Unruh (then Speaker of the Assembly) to deny Ronald Reagan a second term as the Governor of California.
We spent some time preparing our initial recommendations, and we took one trip to Los Angeles to meet with staff members from Unruh’s campaign. It soon became clear that they were not interested in our advice, and were feeling fairly confident about the election – since the Governor’s approval ratings at that time were very low and he was trailing the Speaker in early polls concerning that contest.
As it turnout out, however, another kind of Berkeley-based influence led to a fairly decisive shift in preferences between Reagan and Brown. That Spring, Berkeley went through the People’s Park crisis, which led to the worst-ever conflicts between protestors and law enforcement – which included the national Guard and San Francisco tactical squad as well as police from Berkeley and Oakland. In a memorable speech, the Governor said: “If they want a bloodbath, let’s have it now,” His poll-based approval ratings then went up fairly dramatically, and he defeated Unruh handily in the fall election.
In that situation, it seemed unlikely that any survey-related recommendations from the three of us would have made any difference. But the episode provided another way for me to spend time with Ray and Barbara — in addition to my lack of success on the fishing trips which Ray hosted for students and colleagues.
Stage 3: Assistance to a Young Director
During the 1970’s, while I was the Director of Berkeley’s Survey Research Center, Ray joined the Center’s Advisory Committee. During those years, he and Aaron Wildavsky were very helpful in advising – and supporting — me while the Center developed a several survey-related capabilities and research projects. As I recall that period, Ray was always a good person to ask when I needed a good reason not to take the next step in a major project so quickly – or a good reason to avoid some potential partners entirely.
Long after my terms as the SRC Director, Ray and I continued periodic discussions concerning the Center – while he directed the UC Data Program and in subsequent periods when the Center experienced major challenges from campus administration.
State 4: Berkeley’s Graduate Seminar in Electoral Behavior
In the early 1980’s, Ray and I began to share responsibility for our department’s graduate seminar in electoral behavior. I always thought it was a great privilege – and opportunity — to take turns with Ray in leading weekly discussion with our graduate students concerning previous research and their own analysis projects. And our students enjoyed the periodic exchanges between the two of us when we recommended different assumptions or conclusions.
Ray retired before I did, and I quickly missed those occasions in which we presented alternative or competing perspectives to our graduate students – and discussed the kinds of survey-based evidence which might answer some of the unresolved questions in that field .
Stage 5: The Board of Overseers for the American National Election Studies
Finally, during the 1980’s Ray also joined me as a member of the initial Board of Overseers for the major grants in which the National Science Foundation provided continuing support for what became the American national Election Studies. After only a few years, I was involved in an effort to select Ray as the next Chair for that Board – which was then responsible for the overall design and data collection priorities for each of the surveys supported by NSF.
Before to that selection, Ray had acquired a reputation for fiercely defending his own views and priorities, and that reputation almost derailed his selection. After his appointment, however, Ray was quickly recognized as a very fair and effective leader by all the members of that Board. And he was very instrumental in protecting that enterprise through a series of changes within NSF and the larger research community.
In every aspect of our relationship, Ray was a delight to work with, a thoughtful and creative scholar, and a valuable ally in organizational decisions, as well as a friend. I often wish he was still available to discuss current issues and challenges.
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Professor of Political Science, UC Davis
My relationship with Ray began in 1990 when I was a first year graduate student at Berkeley. I was 22 years old, a recent college graduate, single, and sufficiently unsure about the direction of my life that I deferred my law school acceptance in case graduate school didn’t work out.
Today, I’m a professor — very happy in my professional and personal lives. Ray’s influence is easy to detect.
· Ray hired me as a research assistant during my first year of graduate school.
· After that first year I decided to leave and go to law school. Ray convinced me to stay.
· During graduate school Ray invited me to collaborate on a turnout paper. We ended up co-authoring four articles together. And, he also left enough space for me to write other turnout articles without him.
· Ray chaired my dissertation committee.
· Ray encouraged me to apply for a Congressional Fellowship. After being turned down, he encouraged me to apply again. I got it the second time, and during the year I lived in Washington, I met my wife.
· It was also during the year I lived in Washington that I got my first job and the one I still have today – at UC Davis. It may not be a coincidence that one of Ray’s friends from his days at Stanford – Randy Siverson – was a professor there.
Over the years, the amount of time he gave, sustained attention he provided, and advocacy he undertook on my behalf was remarkable.
All the more so, in light of the long list of graduate students who benefitted in the same way.
For all of this I am deeply grateful.
With Ray’s death, none of that changes. What I miss and will continue to miss is my relationship with him.
That relationship began when Ray hired me as a research assistant in my first year of graduate school. He set me up at the Survey Research Center in a shared office that had recently been vacated by Michael Hagen and Jim Glaser, was soon to be vacated by Marty Gilens and Jon Krasno, and would become my academic home, with Eric Oliver, Sam Luks, and Dorie Appolonio for eight years.
When I decided to leave graduate school for law school, Ray thought I should stay. He managed to convince me using a technique that will be familiar to anyone who ever had a disagreement with him
– I like to think of it as his version of the Johnson Treatment.
· He asked me why I wanted to go to law school.
· He listened carefully to my reasons.
· And then he refuted each one.
· And, he did this while we were at his house, sitting on the patio, and drinking wine.
Looking back, I don’t think I was persuaded by Ray’s arguments. I was probably even annoyed by them.
But, I think I was looking for a mentor, and that conversation made it clear that I had found one.
What I had also found was a friendship that would last 25 years.
Given how Ray and Barbara maintain relationships with their friends across the country I don’t have any doubt that we would have stayed in touch if I had gone elsewhere.
But, with a job at Davis and having decided to live in Berkeley after I returned from Washington, it was easy to stay in touch.
Ray and I continued our collaborative work. We resumed regularly getting together for lunch. Ray and Barbara attended my wedding. They had my wife and me over for dinner many times. Ray and Barbara’s kindness extended to my parents with invitations to visit them in Pope Valley and Calistoga.
Over time, like many who knew him, I accumulated anecdotes – data – of Ray being Ray.
· On more than one occasion when a paper of ours was rejected, Ray decided we should write to the journal editor explaining why the reviewers were wrong. We were not always successful in these endeavors. But we were not always unsuccessful either.
· At dinner parties Ray was quick to refill wine glasses, acting on his belief that the proper time to do so is before a glass becomes empty.
· Ray delighted in a story about Harry Truman during World War I.
o During a battle, Truman had been knocked off his horse by a shell burst in the middle of a rainy night.
o After getting out from under the fallen horse and finding the troops under his command in disarray, Truman delivered an expletive filled tirade that restored order.
o Ray remembered this story from a book on Truman. I had read the same book, but could only nod in agreement, pretending to remember the story.
o In preparation for today I checked the accuracy, and on page 122 of David McCullough’s 1,000 page biography of Truman is the story, just as Ray told it.
On the whole, from my vantage point, Ray led a full and rich life. He taught me a lot. He was a good role model. He meant a lot to me. He was a wonderful person to know. I will miss him for a long time.
* * *
Professor of Political Science, MIT
Unfortunately I cannot attend the memorial service for Ray, but I wanted to pass along a few memories and thoughts.
At the dinner in Ray’s honor at APSA a few years ago, many of the stories were about fishing expeditions, and notorious wine-seeking and wine-drinking road trips, and other boisterous adventures. But what I remember most fondly about Ray reveals his softer side. During my first two years in grad school, my husband and I were living bicoastally, as he was already teaching in Boston. We were maintaining two households, and money was tight. I never said as much to Ray, but he must have figured it out, for he gave me a complete set of desk copies of all the books needed for the American Politics seminar I was taking with him. This saved me a great deal of money, and I was extremely grateful. He also allowed me to camp out at his office hours for two years straight. He was very patient, and I learned so much. When I returned to Boston to write my dissertation remotely, he put me in touch with all of his former students on the East Coast, including Jim Glaser of Tufts, for whom I later TA’d. It was because of Jim that we moved to Arlington, Massachusetts when I got my first job teaching at Harvard, and we’ve been enormously happy there ever since.
Also at that dinner at APSA, Ray beckoned me over. “Andrea, please meet my advisor, Robert Dahl.” I was charmed that the 70-something still called the 90-something his advisor. Once an advisor, always an advisor, I suppose. Currently I sit on the dissertation committee of a graduate student at the University of Colorado who is utterly fascinated by the history of political science and who is creating a “family tree” of his advisors’ advisors, etc. He was absolutely thrilled when he found out that by adding me to his committee he could include Wolfinger and Dahl on his family tree. You’ve never seen a happier graduate student.
Finally, as you know Ray was an exacting writer and fine editor. I will always be immensely grateful for the time he spent with my dissertation and for the great launch he gave me into academia. He was a very talented man, and a kind one, and I will miss him.
* * *
David Magleby, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Brigham Young University
Barbara, Nick, friends and colleagues, I am honored to have been asked to say a few words about Ray.
Several of us joined together to contribute to the Wolfinger Family Fund in honor of Ray. As I invited former students of Ray’s as well as professional associates of his across his distinguished career there was a common response. Yes, I would like to contribute and then the person would typically continue, saying “he taught me so much.” I echo those words today. Ray taught ME so much.
First, I credit Ray with my coming to Berkeley and pursuing a Ph.D. The more predictable path for me would have been law school. Ray was on the graduate admissions committee the year I applied. He noticed I was from Utah, a state he spent time in during his adolescence. Somehow he also knew Cal had a university wide scholarship for graduate students in any field for applicants from the Rocky Mountain states. My admission to Cal came with an offer of this scholarship. This is but one example of Ray’s attention to detail and going the extra mile for a newly admitted graduate student he did not know.
I came to Berkeley thinking I would study European politics. Because of the correspondence with Ray about the fellowship I decided to branch out and take his seminar on Congress. That course helped reorient me to the American politics subfield. It was demanding, engaging and transforming. I can still remember some of the comments Ray penciled, always in pencil, on papers, dissertation chapters, and other work I did. He pushed me hard and I am the better for it.
Sandy Muir once said something that has been confirmed in my career. He said, “We teach as we were taught.” We used to speculate about whether Polsby, Wildavsky and Wolfinger were more like Dahl, Lindblom, or Laswell. I learned from Ray that finding ways for students to learn and explore together outside the classroom substantially expanded the learning. My second year here I took voting behavior with four others and some who audited the class. This was before desk-top computers and even before terminals hard wired to the main frame from Barrows. Ray suggested that we might overcome our angst about the computing center in the basement of Evans if we did a computing project together. We explored the growing proportions of Independents using the ANES data. We spent many hours together looking at data going back to 1952 and eventually produced articles and a book. Ray was a full participant. In the course of together examining this question we learned a lot about how to do public opinion research and how to write up our findings.
In my teaching I have found power in the idea of students learning about research by doing research. We have conducted panel studies of the 1980 presidential election in an undergraduate voting behavior class at UVA, and since 1982 I have been involved in biennial exit polls in Utah designed and administered by undergraduates from seven colleges and universities. .
I was a TA for Ray in his Congress class. For years afterwards I would tell stories about the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that Ray had told in his lectures. Hubert Humphrey. Everett Dirkson, Daniel Rostenkowski, and Roland Libonatti and others were part of Ray’s time on the Hill. He motivated me to one day pursue an APSA Congressional Fellowship. This means now I can tell my own stories in addition to Ray’s.
Ray had high standards and expected us to as well. He had been part of an extraordinary cohort at Yale and he worked to professionalize us as he had been. He generally encouraged one of us to present our coauthored papers with him at professional meetings. His TA’s were each expected to give one lecture, but this was not to cover while he was away from campus. Instead he sent detailed notes on our lectures, right down to how to better answer particular student questions.
Finally, Ray encouraged us to speak to our professional peers but also to the broader public. His work on civil rights early in his career is one example but later his interest in fostering voting through legislation like Motor Voter illustrates this emphasis. Here again Ray taught me by his example.
* * *
Sheilah Mann, former Director of Education and Political Development, American Political Science Association
Among his students Ray is known for his tough critiques followed by insightful suggestions, an impatience with sloppy thinking never accompanied by mean-spiritedness, and a generosity and friendship that enriched our professional and personal lives.
I think I was Ray’s first doctoral advisee. I met him the year before he joined the Stanford faculty when he was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and I was a first year graduate student and also working for Barbara when she was conducting a study for McCann Erikson on why people use artificial sweeteners.
Let me share a personal story about the Stanford Political Science Department before Ray’s appointment. When I was a senior at Cornell University, I told Andy Hacker that I’d been accepted to the Ph. D. programs at Yale, Johns Hopkins and Stanford. I asked for his advice. His response was “Go to Stanford, They’re not very good and they’ll be nice to you”. I did choose Stanford because I was determined to go to Northern California after seeing “Vertigo”. That said I found that Hacker was right on both counts. Save for Heinz Eulau’s recent appointment, the department had no faculty doing the new, for that time, cutting edge research in behavioral political science. And the faculty was nice to me and other women graduate “students, a rarity at that time. The quality of the department increased markedly when Ray joined its faculty. A protégé of Robert Dahl, Ray was attracted to the methods of modern social science, an empiricist always in search of better data and rigorous thinking and testing. Ray was a generous advisor giving me the opportunity to join him, Barbara and Ken Prewitt in doing a survey of the members of one of California’s Radical Right organizations. This research led to a paper published in the book “Ideology and Discontent” and led to the research that developed into my dissertation.
Ray was not only a terrific professor but also, along with Barbara, a professional advisor and personal friend for life. Ray was not only an important researcher but also an advocate for policies designed to foster easier access to voting. His voter registration measure became part of the “Motor Voter” Act. Ray worked effectively with Congressional Staff to improve and promote this legislation.
Later on I married Tom while working for the APSA and that friendship expanded to include him. We treasure our time spent with Ray and Barbara and retain found memories of:
1. Being introduced to Peet’s Coffee, then the exclusive pride of Berkeley.
2. Shopping for dinner, market by market to select the best produce, fish and bread. The wine had already been selected.
3. Dining at their favorite SF and Berkeley restaurants and in France where Ray’s self confidence in ordering led waiters to treat us all with respect.
4. Staying at their amazing home on the Alameda, the setting for scores of dinners they hosted for colleagues, students and friends.
5. Visiting Ray and Barbara at their country homes where Ray earned his right to identify himself as a farmer, not just a gardener.
I’ve maintained a wonderful long distance phone relationship with Barbara over my decades in Washington and since we moved to the East Bay in December. The move gave me the opportunity to visit them and to be recognized by Ray. I treasure that visit and appreciate all the more his contributions to political science research and his legacy in fostering the research and careers of successive generations of political scientists.
* * *
Fred Greenstein, Professor of Politics Emeritus, Princeton University
RAY WOLFINGER WAS MY OLDEST AND BEST FRIEND. WE MET ON THE FIRST WEEK OF GRADUATE SCHOOL AND IMMEDATELY BONDED. WE BOTH WERE STUDENTS IN THE GRADUATE SEMINARS OF BOB LANE, BOB DAHL, AND HAROLD LASSWELL.
WE BOTH ALSO WERE JJUST OUT OF THE ARMY. RAY HAD BEEN AN OFFICER AND I HJAD BEEN AN ENLISTED MAN, WHICH WAS THE SOURCE OF CONPETIVE BANTER,
TO KNOW RAY WAS TO REMEMBER HIM. THIS WAS ILUSTRATED BY THE OUTPOURING OF PRAISE BY HIS STUDENTS AT HIS RETIREMENT DINNER. TO A PERSON, THEY SPOKE OF HIS UNCOMPROMISING STANDARDS, HIS COMMITMENT TO LUCID WRITING, THE PAINS HE TOOK TO HELP THEM IMPROVE THEIR WORK, AND THE TIME HE SPENT SOCIALIZING WITH THEM, INCLUDING HIS FAMOUS FISHING TRIPS.
ONE OF MY FONDEST MEMORIES OF RAY GOES BACK TO GRADUATE SCHOOL. SHORTLY BEFORE THE START OF ROBERT DAHL’S SEMINAR, RAY CORNERED ME AND EXPLAINED THAT HE HAD NOT HAD TIME TO READ THE WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT, WHICH WAS TOQUEVILLE’S “DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA.” I GAVE HIM A QUICK BRIEFING ON THE MAIN POINTS OF TOQUEVILLE’S WORK. WHEN THE SEMINAR BEGAN, TO MY SURPRISE RAY LEAD IT OFF WITH A COGENT CRITIQUE OF THE BOOK.
I HAVE A CASCADE OF OTHER MEMORIES OF RAY, MANY OF WHICH INCLUDE BARBARA.
ON ONE OCASION MY WIFE AND I WERE AFFLICTED WTH FLU AND RAY APPEARED AT OUR DOOR WITH A CARE PACKAGE OF GROCERIES.
AT THAT TIME MY WIFE I WERE LIVING IN A QUONSIT HUT AND RAY PLANTED A VEGITEBLE GARDEN IN OUR YARD WHICH PROMPTED A NEIGHBORING FOUR YEAR OLD TO ASK IF HE WAS OUR GARDENER.
A RELATED MEMORY IS OF RAY IN THE NAPA VALLEY, GOING THROUGH A BATCH OF CANTELOPES, THROWING AWAY THOSE THAT DIDN’T MEET HIS STANDARDS.
RAY WROTE AND PUBLISHED OUR FIRST JOURNAL ARTICLE IN 1959.
THE TWO OF US ALSO JOINED MARTIN SHAPIRO IN PUBLISHING AN AMERICAN GOVERNMENT TEXT BOOK AND DEDICATING IT TO A MYSTERIOS BARBARA. THE HONORES WERE BARBARA WOLINGER, BARBARA GREENSTEIN, AND BARBARA SHAPIRO.
IT IS PAINFUL TO HAVE LOST RAY, BUT HE LIVES ON IN OUR MEMORIES.
* * *
Nicholas H. Wolfinger, Professor, Department of Family and Consumer Studies and Adjunct Professor of Sociology, University of Utah
As both Ray’s son and an academic, I’m in a unique vantage point to describe his personal and scholarly gifts. Certainly there were signs early on that I was growing up in an academic household. Even before I was five years old I recall hearing the name “Heinz Eulau” invoked the same way “Hitler” was mentioned in other families.
My quantitative education also started early. On the first day of class of first grade, I learned that we were to be taught the rudiments of algebra and geometry. That night I came home and asked my dad about it.
“What’s algebra?” I said.
My dad replied, “It’s where you use letters instead of numbers. I seem recall that A is equal to eight.”
My professional socialization continued apace. Until I started grad school I really had very little idea about exactly what it is that my dad did. I do recall that he was home a lot and never seemed to be working that hard, except perhaps in the vegetable garden. I started realizing that this was the sort of life I wanted to have, except without all the gardening.
My father never sought to lead me in any particular direction. My decision to attend graduate school was entirely my own. Nor did he attempt to influence my field of study. Indeed, in my first semester of grad school he encouraged me to decline the offer of a research assistanceship because the research didn’t particularly interest me, even though this meant that my parents would be stuck paying for my schooling for a few years. My dad always freely gave advice when it was sought, but basically left me to do my own thing.
Many of you know how this all worked out. With almost no active guidance, I ended up almost exactly as he was: an empirical social scientist with a fundamental intolerance of speculation and unempirical theorizing. He taught me that the most important question to ask about any research finding is simply whether it is true. This belief may not have always served me well in a profession that all too often emphasizes theory and ideology, but I cannot think of a better intellectual lesson.
I’m proud to say that my father’s last publication, in 2008, was a paper we wrote together. At some point shortly after I got tenure my father proposed that we do some research together. Perhaps he thought I hadn’t been ready until then? We wrote a paper that combined our interests by examining the effects of family structure on voter turnout. It worked out well, and I’m happy to say that I only yelled at him once in the process. I don’t believe he yelled at me at all.
When I was a teenager I was resolute in the belief that my parents and I had nothing in common. Within ten years I had learned that my father and I shared many of the same intellectual interests. I remember him telling me in great detail, at the tender age of seven, the complete histories of the world wars. As adults we shared interests in these and other things. It remains impressive that he—or anyone, for that matter—could correct me on the pronunciation of Marshal Tukhachevsky’s name.
I learned about things more important than intellectual matters from my father. As a self-absorbed teenager I remember questioning why he and my mother donated to charities. His simple answer has stayed with me: Some people are less fortunate than you are. That sums up my dad pretty well: a cardinal moral truth expressed in clear, simple language.
Even as he got sick, his old self sometimes emerged. His mordant wit was on display at a Christmas dinner a couple of years ago. Martin Shapiro was discussing an acquaintance who was the German ambassador to Japan, then concluded by saying he was a very busy guy. My dad then replied, “But he’s not quite as busy as he used to be.” I laughed very hard. More recently, we were discussing with our attorney the terms of the endowment for the study of American politics being established in his name at Cal. My dad had remained silent throughout the conversation, but spoke up to clarify that the endowment should be for the EMPIRICAL study of American politics.
In some ways, he was himself to the end.
* * *
Adam Cobb, former undergraduate exchange student from Australia
In 1990 I was an exchange student from Sydney U. I had worked in congressional liaison in the AUS embassy over the summer and went to UCB for a final semester to finish out my BA.
Enthused by my experience, I discovered a course on the US Congress in the catalogue and signed up. I also found a flyer somewhere inviting polisci students to intern with a member of congress. So I applied, ignorant of the party affiliation or the person holding office – I was just eager to immerse myself in all things congress. In those days, before things went spear-throwing tribal, working for either side did not seem to be a big deal – at least for a foreigner. So white taking Ray’s amazing course I interned 2 days at week at Nancy Pelosi’s district office. Like Ray, Nancy was kind, smart and engaging. We talked about Asia for a few hours in her office once. This sent the rest of the staff into a fit because it destroyed the day’s diary.
Ray was fascinating. His course was exceptionally well crafted, and he delivered it in a way that certainly engaged me to my boot straps. As a kid, I had no clue about his pedigree. The evidence that I was sitting at the feet of an accomplished scholar was his performance on the day. Every day.
In the research obsessed university, we focused on publications as evidence of scholarship. As the above indicates, Ray had that in spades. The forgotten part, or at least, far less emphasized part, is the ability of the scholar to communicate their ideas. I went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and my first supervisor was a scholar of renown. That did not make him a good person, mentor or effective communicator. I soon changed to another supervisor, who like Ray, was all those things and more.
I have a singular memory of Ray I am compelled to convey in the hope that other professors may learn from it. After I did my MA and before my PhD, I was offered a visiting professorship at the University of Amsterdam. I was thrilled to accept but then suddenly terrified by the onset of imposter syndrome. I was only 24 at the time. I also had the great fortune to study under some truly exceptional professors, like Ray, Andrew Barshay (also UCB) and Neville Meaney (Sydney). Wanting the emulate them but without the magical ticket (PhD) endorsing me as a teacher, I felt lost.
This was before the internet, so I wrote a long letter to Ray confessing all my fears in frank terms. That I chose him as a confidant to whom I could entrust my deepest personal and professional misgivings was telling in and of itself. After all, I was really passing through UCB for a semester, I only took 1 class with him, we didn’t socialize or really connect in anyway other than my deep respect for him as a gifted teacher whom I deeply respected. In today’s parlance, Ray made me feel safe to reveal my deepest fears. Under those circumstances, thats quite remarkable when you think about it.
Ray’s response calmed me completely. He wrote back that he still had a fear of speaking before large groups, that he had self doubt, and that he had to work on his craft every day. Of course the last two elements are what make anyone good at their profession. But I did not know that at the time. To my mind, if the truly great Professor Wolfinger, was kind enough to share these thoughts with me – indeed – to bother answering a letter from an exchange student passing through 1 of his classes – then I could do it. With his unique, sensitive, and genuine encouragement, I did it. I am not sure I would have been able to face it without Ray being an authentic human being ready to be kind to (effectively) a stranger.
Throughout my subsequent career as a teaching professor here in America, I earnestly tried to emulate not just the intellectual acumen of those professors who impressed me on my way up, but also their humanity, thoughtfulness, and genuine care and consideration for the person of the student. That was Ray’s biggest lesson to me at a moment of real crisis in my fledging academic life. I will never forget him. I try to be like him and I hope other professors do too. He was a singularly impressive and humane man. I feel so fortunate to have met him.