John Wold, a geologist and former U.S. Congressman from Casper, Wyo., and his wife, Jane, are making a $20 million commitment to Union College.
The gift – the largest in the College's 207-year-history – will provide endowment support for a variety of programs, including the annual fund, scholarships, a professorship in religious studies, scientific and technical equipment, and a possible new science building.
Wold is a 1938 graduate of Union College.
President Roger Hull, announcing the gift, said, “As a Congressman, as a trustee of Union, and as a scientist and businessman, John Wold has always been an exceptional leader. The gift that he and Jane are making illustrates that leadership. Not only will its generosity provide a significant boost to our new House System and several other important programs, it will serve as an inspiration for all Union alumni and friends and, I hope, raise their sights. What a great commitment from a great human being!”
In honor of this gift, Union will name, as part of the new residential system, one of the two houses to be created in North College in memory of Wold's parents. Wold's father, Peter, was the head of the College's Physics Department from 1919 to 1945, and John Wold recalls, “During most of my childhood I lived in the faculty residence at the north end of North College. I still think of myself as a ‘Campus Kid'.”
Wold also was a member of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity at the College, and he says, “I have been a longtime admirer of what the fraternity/sorority program has meant at Union in the past and what promise it has for the future, if it is properly administered. The House System preserves the option for those who want fraternities and sororities while providing new residential and social opportunities for all students.”
Wold is president of Wold Minerals Co. in Casper and a number of other energy mineral development firms. He was elected to the Wyoming State Legislature in 1956 and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to 1971, the first professional geologist to serve in Congress. He was the original sponsor of the “National Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970.” He is a two-term Wyoming Republican State Chairman and a former member of the executive committee of the Republican National Committee.
Wold is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union, a director of the Federation of Rocky
Mountain States, vice president for Wyoming and South Dakota of the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association, and former president of the Wyoming Geological Association.
Wold and his wife, the former Jane Adele Pearson, a native of Schenectady and a graduate of Wheelock College, established the John and Jane Wold Professorship in Geology at Union in 1988. He was a term trustee of the College from 1981 to 1990, when he was named a trustee emeritus. In 1999, he received the College's Eliphalet Nott Medal, which recognizes alumni who have achieved great distinction in their fields.
As a student at Union, Wold was the College's second St. Andrews University Exchange Scholar and was a member of the Terrace Council, the varsity hockey team, and Sigma Xi, the national honorary society dedicated to scientific research. He earned his master's degree in geology at Cornell University and served in the Navy in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during World War II.
Wold moved to Wyoming in 1948 to work for an oil company. Two years later he struck out on his own as a consulting geologist. He ran a one-man operation, doing his own geological work and research, and gradually moved his emphasis from oil to minerals. He was a co-discoverer and developer of the Christensen Ranch uranium ore body, one of the largest in the country, and also played a principal role in the development of the Highland Uranium Mine, the largest uranium solution mine in the world.
In 1999 he was named Wyoming Citizen of the Century in the Minerals, Oil, and Gas Category by the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming.
The previous largest gift to Union was $9 million from the F.W. Olin Foundation, Inc., of New York City, in 1996 for a high-technology classroom and laboratory building known as the F.W. Olin Center.