In Memory: Julian Wolf

by Ed Moran, Photos by Allison Frederick | Mar 08, 2013
When Julian Wolf saw a need for something, especially when it involved the sport of rowing, he acted. He believed that the University of Southern California, and collegiate rowing on the west coast, would benefit from having a rowing team. So he helped start a program at the school and then became its first coach in 1948.
When Julian Wolf saw a need for something, especially when it involved the sport of rowing, he acted.

He believed that the University of Southern California, and collegiate rowing on the west coast, would benefit from having a rowing team. So he helped start a program at the school and then became its first coach in 1948.

Wolf was passionate about women participating in the sport. So he championed the cause and offered his support to the National Women’s Rowing Association and continued his support when USRowing was formed.

And he believed that referees needed a place where they could share ideas and train new officials and that rowing would be better if rules were enforced universally. So he established the USRowing Referee College that today bears his name – the Julian Wolf National Referee Training School, which operates in different cities around the country each year.

Today, the rowing world mourns the loss of Wolf, who died this week in an Australian hospital after a four-week battle with pancreatitis. He was 88.

“There are some people that have made our sport better because of their involvement,” said USRowing Chief Executive Officer Glenn Merry. “Julian Wolf was one of those people.

“I was fortunate to know Julian, perhaps not as well as many in the sport, but I benefited from my conversations with him. He was a true gentleman and innovative thinker. Every regatta, every competitor, can be thankful for his leadership and role in creating a nationalized referee education program and the invention of the referee college.

“But that wasn’t the only aspect of the sport he lifted,” Merry said. “He founded programs, he led teams and he brought people together under one sport of rowing. Julian will be missed.”

Wolf rowed and coached at the University of California at Los Angeles. While coaching, he decided the best way to improve his crew was to raise the level of competition in the Los Angeles area and he helped Bob Hillen establish a rowing team at USC.

Wolf went on to encourage and support others who founded crews at many colleges and clubs along the west coast.

He was a founding member of the National Rowing Foundation, a member of the USRowing Board of Directors, a member and chairman of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Rowing Committee from 1971 to 1988, a U.S. national team manager for the 1984 men’s Olympic team and two Pan American teams, and was the Chef d’Mission of the 1978 U.S. team.

He was inducted into the Rowing Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.

Prior to his service in rowing, Wolf served in the United States Army during World War II as an intelligence officer in General George Patton’s command and was cited for his leadership during the Battle of the Bulge. He attended law school at USC, and following graduation formed a successful Los Angeles insurance company that bears his name.

Most significant among his many accomplishments in rowing is the formation of the referee college in 1990. USRowing later recognized his contributions, naming an annual award in his honor, the Julian Wolf Award, which is given to one rowing official in the United States that stood apart in making contributions to the sport in the past year. Selection is based upon outstanding performance, dedication, heroic acts and/or outstanding contributions to officiating.

For many referees, receiving an award named after Wolf made the recognition even more significant.

“Julian leaves a lasting legacy for rowing and, in particular, the referee corps,” said 2012 recipient Lloyd McDonald. “Julian is very rightly recognized as the father of referee education with generations of referees attending the referee colleges. For me, personally, to be associated with Julian Wolf, through the Julian Wolf Award, is the absolute high point of my time as a referee.”

The 2009 Wolf Award recipient, Bob Scurria, was not only a fellow official, but also one of Wolf’s many friends and benefactors. Scurria informed the rowing world of Wolf’s passing in an email on Thursday, March 7.

“Whether you knew Julian or not, if you are a member of the rowing community, you have been touched by his influence. For over seventy years, he had dedicated his life, time and resources to our sport,” Scurria wrote in his email.

According to Scurria, Wolf and his wife, Mary, were visiting friends in Australia when he became ill.

“Julian was an avid sport fisherman and holds several game fish records,” Scurria wrote. “He traveled the world with his beloved Mary and they made friends wherever they went. They often returned to the same places to visit with those friends, as they were doing on this trip to Australia.”

Scurria, who is also a rowing referee, credits Wolf for having the vision to start the referee college.

“Nationally, Julian recognized that local regionalization was hindering the growth of the sport, and the best way to overcome this obstacle was to interpret and enforce the rules universally. He began a nationwide mentorship program for referees and using his own resources, established the USRowing Referee College.

“Every current athlete, coach or referee has somehow benefited from his presence in the sport. While we can all appreciate his contribution to the rowing community, I also had the privilege of knowing him personally. Away from the water, he also stood tall,” Scurria wrote.

Bob Appleyard, Dean of the Julian Wolf School and close friend of Wolf’s said, “In my generation of referees, those of us who have been in it for maybe 20 years, Julian served as a mentor to all of us and the college has served to be the one focus that USRowing now uses to help keep the standards, the very high standards on a national level, that Julian had envisioned.”

Last year, USRowing, under the direction of John Wik, its director of referee programs, secured a grant from the NCAA to support the referee college, which holds sessions in various cities around the country.

This year, sessions are planned for Sarasota, Fla., Chula Vista, Calif., and Oklahoma City, Okla.

"Julian Wolf was an icon in the referee community,” said Wik. “His dedication to our sport, its athletes and to the referee corps was unsurpassed.

“One of the earliest proponents of a comprehensive training program for referees, Julian was a mentor and friend to many referees throughout the country. His dedication, humor, and warmth will be greatly missed and fondly remembered."

According to Scurria, arrangements are being made to return Wolf to the United States. Plans for a memorial service are pending.
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