William “Bill” DeWolfe, 84, a prominent Riverside attorney and philanthropist who was one of UC Riverside’s earliest graduates and an ardent advocate of the university for the rest of his life, died April 16, 2020.
After graduating from Poly High School, DeWolfe joined UCR’s pioneer class in 1954 and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCR in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He earned his law degree at UC Berkeley in 1961 and then returned to Riverside to join Best Best & Krieger law firm in 1962, where he became a senior partner specializing in civil litigation and was the former co-chair of the firm’s litigation department.
While he was at Berkeley, DeWolfe was assistant managing editor for the California Law Review, and in later years contributed several articles to Riverside Lawyer magazine. He was named to Super Lawyers Southern California in 2007, for business litigation, estate planning and probate, and Super Lawyers Southern California Corporate Counsel Edition in 2008, for business litigation.
Over the years, DeWolfe was active on many regional boards and organizations, including the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts, the Riverside Symphony Society, the Community Foundation, the Riverside Men’s Breakfast Forum, the First Congregational Church, the Frank Miller Club, and the Victoria Club.
DeWolfe’s longest and strongest focus, however, was on his alma mater, UCR. He spent more than 60 years actively promoting and financially supporting the campus.
His personal life was intimately entwined with the university. His family moved to Riverside in 1946, and his father, Tom DeWolfe was a long-time researcher for the university’s plant pathology department.
His sister and brother-in-law, Eleanor and Don Blackman, were both UCR graduates, and his wife, Ann Straubinger DeWolfe, is the daughter of one of UCR’s founding faculty members, O. Paul Straubinger, a German professor who helped establish the Foreign Language department.
DeWolfe met his wife when she was earning her teaching certificate at UCR in 1967, and the two had their wedding reception in the UCR Faculty Club.
“They made such a great team,” friend and UCR alumnus David Willmon said of Bill and Ann DeWolfe. Willmon, who is a former UC Alumni Regent and UCR Alumni Association president, first met DeWolfe about 50 years ago. “They were both generous to UCR with their time, and with their treasure. When I think of Bill, the overwhelming impression I have is that of faithful service.”
In 1964, DeWolfe joined the Citizens University Committee, one of university’s earliest support organizations, and remained an active participant for the rest of his life, having served as president. Over the years, DeWolfe regularly traveled to Sacramento as a volunteer, meeting with lawmakers to advocate on behalf of the campus and university during the annual UCR Day.
DeWolfe was a lifetime member and past president of the UCR Alumni Association and joined the UCR Foundation Board of Trustees in 2006. He was awarded the University Service Award by the UCR Alumni Association in 2001 and recognized as a Citizens University Committee honoree in 2015. In 2018, he was recognized as a Distinguished Emeritus Trustee.
Charlie Field, also a member of UCR’s Pioneer Class, was among those who spoke on DeWolfe’s behalf at the 2015 ceremony.
“We got to know each other as freshman, then we knew each other professionally and through the alumni association, and went to all the same gatherings all these years,” Field said. “He was a serious, hard-working, and very nice guy.”
Willmon recalled the DeWolfes love of music and theater.
“For such a prominent and influential attorney, he was remarkably low-key, and had an almost sly sense of humor. You had to pay attention, but it was a wonderful sense of humor.”
The DeWolfes financial contributions to UCR supported a wide range of campus departments and programs, including the Alumni and Visitor’s Center, Athletic Department, Music Department, Theater Arts, Medical School, and School of Business.
In addition to his wife, Ann, DeWolfe’s survivors include two children, son John and his wife, Michelle Ventura, and daughter Amy Mears and her husband David; as well as two grandchildren.