Before Warren Woolf could complete work for his degree in mechanical engineering, he’d already decided on a different career path.
The Baptist Student Union had made an indelible impact on Woolf during his time at Auburn University. By the time he finished active duty military service and graduated from Georgia Tech, he knew working with young people in ministry was his calling.
“I call it serendipitous, but Mom might call it divine intervention,” David Woolf said of his father’s career path.
In the early 1940s, Woolf, an Alabama native and Navy veteran, met Mamie Sue Barker at the First Baptist Church Atlanta. A recent graduate of Agnes Scott, she was headed to seminary to fulfill her dream of working with students in ministry. The problem was, she met and fell in love with this dashing young man.
Her future plans were suddenly in flux, David Woolf said.
“She and Dad got married in 1945 and he made a decision to go into student work too. But I think it was more so because of what the Baptist Student Union had been to him,” said their son, who lives in Atlanta. “But it all worked out perfectly. They said they’d do it together.”
After Woolf’s graduation, the couple moved to Oklahoma where they worked with students. His path brought him back to Atlanta in 1950, when he became director of the Baptist Student Union at his alma mater. He remained there until 1966, when he accepted a job with the Southern Baptist Convention Home Mission Board in Atlanta. He retired in 1984 as head of personnel for the board.
“He never had a career as an engineer,” Woolf said.
E. Warren Woolf, of Atlanta, died July 15 from complications of cancer. He was 91.
His body was donated to Emory University medical school. A memorial service was held Saturday at Oakhurst Baptist Church, where he’d been a member for nearly 45 years.
Rev. Melanie Vaughn-West, pastor of Oakhurst, said Woolf welcomed her with open arms when she first came to the church as an intern in 1999.
“He never succumbed to cultural illusions about things like segregation and the roles of women,” she said. “He never accepted the cultural mores of his time. He wanted to seek truth and justice, and he lead that way.”
Many of the students Woolf worked with over the years and who are now leaders in their own right kept up with him, from phone calls to visits to quarterly fellowship gatherings. At his 90th birthday celebration, nearly 100 former BSU Tech students were in attendance, David Woolf said.
Don Hammonds, who met Warren Woolf in the fall of 1950, said Woolf’s dedication to the students and his interest in their well-being was contagious.
“He believed in the worth of individuals and he was very inclusive of everyone,” he said. “While I was at Georgia Tech, I followed his example and went into student work myself. So he was not only a good friend, but a great mentor.”
Woolf said cultivating friendships may have been one of the greatest joys of his father’s career.
“He loved interactions with the students and the people from the Mission Board,” Woolf said. “And though some of them were young when these friendships began, I think they are some of the best friendships Mom and Dad have had. I mean, some of them date back 60 years. But I think it was the people that he enjoyed most.”
In addition to his wife of 68 years and his son, Woolf is survived by a daughter, Susan Woolf Leonard of Dallas, Texas; son, Bill Woolf of Decatur; brother, Raymond Woolf; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
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