F&M Stories

Gov. Tom Wolf: Doctor of Humane Letters

Presented at the 2016 Commencement of Franklin & Marshall College:

In the 15 months since he was sworn in as governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the Commonwealth's citizens. However, that constant striving to improve the human condition is a habit Governor Wolf embraced long before he took office.

As only one example, he interrupted his studies at Dartmouth College and joined the Peace Corps for two years to serve in a small village in India before returning to finish his undergraduate career. He went on to earn a master of philosophy degree from the University of London and a doctoral degree in political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Before his embrace of our common humanity took the form of public service, Wolf used his business endeavors to learn more about people's everyday lives. While he finished his graduate studies, he worked as a forklift operator and warehouse worker in the Wolf Organization, his family's lumber and building products distribution business in York, Pennsylvania. After he graduated, he ran a hardware store in his hometown of Manchester, Pennsylvania. Later, along with two cousins, he secured a loan to buy the family business, which they grew fivefold before selling it 25 years later.

In 2007, a year after selling the business, Wolf accepted the position of Pennsylvania secretary of revenue in Governor Edward Rendell's cabinet. In that role, he instituted reforms that grew and strengthened the state lottery and established a foundation for millions of dollars in additional benefits for the Commonwealth's seniors.

In early 2009, in the depths of the recession, Wolf returned to the business he sold and helped to rescue it from the brink of bankruptcy. He was successful in turning the Wolf Organization around by changing its business model. Instead of only supplying its products to other businesses, it now sources its own American-made cabinets and competes directly with overseas manufacturers. Wolf invested in the company's employees, providing comprehensive health and retirement benefits and returning a substantial amount of the company's profits back to those workers.

In 2014, Wolf surprised many by throwing his hat in the campaign ring, using his now-famous Jeep to travel all around the state and introduce himself to the voters of Pennsylvania. Against the odds most political pundits were giving him, his thoughtful and diligent campaigning resulted in this first-time officeholder being elected. On January 20, 2015, Tom Wolf was sworn in as Pennsylvania's 47th governor.

Governor Wolf and his wife, Frances, a 1996 graduate of Franklin & Marshall and a member of the College's Board of Trustees for the past 12 years, continue to live in the same house to which Tom Wolf was brought from the hospital after his birth.

Tom Wolf, for your devotion to the liberal arts and your unquenchable thirst for knowledge, for your ceaseless desire to improve your understanding of humanity's struggles, and for your efforts to improve the human condition through your business leadership, your community development, and your public service, Franklin & Marshall College bestows upon you the Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.

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