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Former Congressman and WMU professor Howard Wolpe dies

by Thom Myers

Oct. 26, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Howard Wolpe.
Howard Wolpe
KALAMAZOO--Former U.S. Representative and member of the faculty at Western Michigan University Howard Wolpe died yesterday at his home in Saugatuck, Mich., at age 71.

A member of WMU's political science faculty from 1967 to 1972, Wolpe was named the University's first distinguished visiting professor in 1993.

Wolpe served three years on the Kalamazoo City Commission, 1969-72; four years in the Michigan House of Representatives, 1973-77; and 14 years, 1978-92, in the U.S. House, representing a district that included most of Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Lansing.

In 1994, Wolpe was the Democratic Party's nominee for governor, losing to incumbent Gov. John Engler.

While serving in Congress, Wolpe built a reputation in African affairs, which he taught at WMU, and was credited with helping pass the federal anti-apartheid act in 1986.

Photo of Howard Wolpe.
Wolpe lectured at WMU in September
Under President Bill Clinton, Wolpe was named Presidential Special Envoy to Africa's Great Lakes Region, where he led the U.S. delegation to the Arusha and Lusaka peace talks, which aimed to end civil wars in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He returned to the State Department as Special Advisor to the Secretary for Africa's Great Lakes Region. He also served as director for the Africa Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Wolpe retained close ties to WMU throughout his distinguished career in public service.

"Hundreds of our students have been recipients of Wolpe Scholarships, and dozens of undergraduates, graduate students and faculty members have received grants for study abroad and field work in Africa from the Wolpe Endowment," said Dr. John Clark, WMU chair of political science.

In September, Wolpe spoke at WMU on "My Life in Congress and the Changing Political Scene" as part of a life-long learning program sponsored by the University.

A native of California, Wolpe is survived by his wife, Julie Fletcher, of Saugatuck and his son, Michael Wolpe, of Los Angeles.

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