Jones Library trustee Michael Wolff dies at 89

Staff Writer
Published: 11/15/2016 11:35:10 PM

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts professor emeritus Michael Wolff, an elected trustee for the Jones Library, has died at the age of 89.

“No one was a better advocate for the Jones,” said Library Director Sharon Sharry in an email. “I am a better person and librarian for having worked with him.”

Sharry said Wolff called the Jones “the sixth college in the Five College system.”

Wolff, an immigrant from England, earned his doctorate at Princeton University and taught at Indiana University before coming to UMass with a specialty in 19th-century British literature.

In an interview when he first ran for library trustee, Wolff talked about studying at research libraries at Oxford and Cambridge, but also appreciating the resources available at the Jones, such as special collections where he did a project involving poet Emily Dickinson’s family letters.

Trustees President Austin Sarat said in an email that Wolff was a wonderful trustee who was devoted to the library and its work for residents.

“He gently but effectively prodded his colleagues to think deeply about the work that we do,” Sarat said. “His warmth and his wit were his greatest weapons of persuasion.”

Wolff was elected in 2011, defeating incumbent Patricia Holland, and played a role in hiring Sharry later that year.

“His love for this library and everyone in it was huge and real and selfless,” Sharry said.

The remaining five trustees, and the Select Board, will hold a joint meeting to name a successor who will serve through March, when town elections are held. Anyone interested in being named to the position should have a letter submitted to the Select Board’s office, in writing or by email to, by 4 p.m. Dec. 7

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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