I learned this afternoon that my friend John Wolda ’56 has passed away. This makes a dark and rainy day even grayer. John was sunshine for me, his visits to the Woodson, often with his wife Harriet in tow, were full of laughter and happy memories. Harriet is the daughter of long-time Rice Chemistry professor (and occasional Athletic Director) H.O. Nicholas so between the two of them the stories went far back in our history. John’s genuine and active interest in the details of my work was both sustaining and touching. He brought in memorabilia, he wrote me notes, and he sent me a LOT of pictures, some cockeyed but all appreciated.
A fine pitcher on the Owl baseball teams of the mid-50s, John remained devoted to Rice athletics his entire life. This article from his senior season captures, I think, something essential about his character:
John wasn’t a very big guy but there was no quit in him. Win or lose, up or down, he always showed up. He told me more than once, with open amazement, how lucky he felt to have been able to attend Rice and how grateful he was for all Rice had given him. In return, his loyalty to Rice never wavered. He never forgot his teammates, his classmates, or his teachers. And I never heard him say a mean word about anyone.
John Wolda, Rest in Peace.
Bonus: This was one of my favorite moments in the archives ever. Back in 2014 John and Harriet were visiting and he asked if I’d seen a scrapbook about Rice football that he’d kept as a high school student and donated to the R Association at some point. I sure had, and when I pulled it off the shelf his delight was absolutely delightful.
Extra Bonus: He sent me this one in 2016.