Peers: ‘Mother Wolff’ will be missed

Leanne Wolff was loved and will be dearly missed, said friend and colleague Bob Oleson, former dean of students at Heidelberg University.

Wolff died Saturday at age 81.

She graduated from Heidelberg in 1954 with majors in biology and education. She studied botany at The Ohio State University and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in communication from Bowling Green State University.

Wolff served at Heidelberg, part-time and full-time, from 1963 until she retired as professor emerita of communication and theatre arts in 1995.

Oleson and Wolff served together on a committee that created the award-winning Total Student Development program at Heidelberg in the 1970s.

“We took the program all over the nation,” Oleson said. “She was a wonderful woman.”

Oleson said that, for him, she will always be “Mother Wolff.” The name was given to her by a former student.

Oleson said the meaning behind the name is that “you may not like what you heard, but she was always going to give it to you straight. It wasn’t out of bitterness, it was out of caring.”

“She always told me if I was wrong or right,” Oleson said “She was a dear pal of mine, you couldn’t find a finer friend.”

While at Heidelberg, Wolff served as the forensics coach for 17 years and headed the Communications and Theatre Arts Department for 20 years.

In addition to being a major part of the Heidelberg community, Wolff also served on several church committees and assisted in formation of the sharing kitchen at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 46 Madison St.

St. Paul Rev. Hannah Tucker said she got to know Wolff well in the year and half she has been at the church.

“As my former speech professor, she helped me hone my public speaking skills,” Tucker said. “She would give me pointers and tell me what others have said either good or bad. She always used her teaching skills in every aspect of her life.”

Wolff educated others about the outside world, Tucker said.

“We have been praying for Syria for a year,” she said. “She was really good about looking at global issues and how to help. It was a very admirable aspect about her.”

Tucker said even if Wolff wasn’t present at the sharing kitchen, guests would always ask about her and how she was doing.

“She was a very determined, strong-willed woman. In spite of poor health or not feeling well, she was always involved,” Tucker said. “I never heard her complain.”

In recent years, Wolff took on The Heidelberg Stories Project, which recorded several hundred alumni memories and stories. She also received the Tiffin Area Chamber of Commerce and Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp.’s Athena Award for support of goals of professional women, and was a long-time member of the League of Women Voters of the Tiffin area.

Long-time league member and friend Shirley Smith said she knew Wolff for about 40 years and had worked with her on several occasions. Smith said she will remember Wolff the most working with her during Thanksgiving dinners at St. Paul.

“Leanne would always make the dressing. I don’t know what we will do without her this year,” Smith said. “Even during the later years, she would still be there to direct us on how to make it.”

Smith and Wolff also worked together organizing church retreats and during St. Paul’s vacation outdoor bible school, taking children on nature walks and identifying plants, trees and bugs.

“I am going to miss her very much,” Smith said. “If I ever needed her to help to read and critique something I had written, she would make it better, she always could. In many ways she affected my life.”

Memorial donations can be made to the James R. and Leanne O. Wolff Scholarship at Heidelberg.