Robert Jefferson Wolfe Dies At Age 72

Robert Jefferson Wolfe

Robert Jefferson Wolfe, 72, died on March 31 in West Palm Beach. Wolfe was known locally for his work with the Florida Rowing Center in Wellington.

Wolfe and his wife Barbara have also been residents of Ringoes, N.J., since 1980. The cause of death was complications from myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare form of bone marrow cancer that he had battled courageously and cheerfully for 15 years.

Wolfe was born on April 13, 1947 and was raised in South Orange, N.J. His parents, Albert Lewis Wolfe and Olga Maurer Wolfe, pre-deceased him. Wolfe graduated from Columbia High School in South Orange in 1965, where he was senior class president. He graduated from Princeton University in 1969 with a degree in philosophy. At Princeton, he participated in crew for two years, and sculling became one of his interests later in life.

After graduation, he joined the U.S. Army Reserves and was on active duty at Fort Sam Houston in Texas from October 1969 until February 1970. Then he attended the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where he met his wife and fellow student Barbara Burgess. They were married in December 1973. After graduating with an MBA in 1972, Wolfe worked for Stanford University before returning to New Jersey in 1974 to work as assistant treasurer at Princeton University.

In 1976, Princeton launched a 2,000-plus-acre mixed use real estate development project, the Princeton Forrestal Center. Wolfe, as a partner of the consulting firm K. S. Sweet Associates, was instrumental in leading the development of the project throughout his career. In 1993, he formed his own company, Picus Associates, which continues to this day (under new ownership) to manage the Princeton Forrestal Center on behalf of Princeton University. Wolfe enjoyed seeing the physical results of his work materialize over time, and he believed that real estate development should be concentrated in areas with appropriate infrastructure, while rural lands should be protected and the natural environment preserved.

Wolfe believed in contributing his time and expertise to his community. He served on the boards of the McCarter Theater (Princeton), the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association and Princeton In Community Service (PICS), placing undergraduates with nonprofit internships for summer work experiences. At the time of his death, he was a member of the board of New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its treasurer.

He enjoyed tennis, travel, photography and sculling. He also enjoyed spending time with extended family at a cabin on Garnet Lake in the Adirondacks. Wolfe was very supportive of his wife Barbara’s equestrian interests and passion for dressage. They have owned a horse farm outside of Princeton since 1980. They began spending winters in Wellington in 2000, initially for equestrian activities, until Wolfe discovered sculling on Lake Wellington. With two partners, he purchased and managed the Florida Rowing Center, a winter sculling school based in Wellington, which continues today. After he retired in 2018, Barbara and Bob Wolfe became Florida residents.

Wolfe is survived by his wife of 46 years Barbara (Burgess), his sister Susan Wolfe Lauffer (spouse Don Lauffer) of Bartlesville, Oklahoma and Madison, Wisconsin, his brother William A. Wolfe (spouse Elizabeth West Wolfe) of Princeton N.J., a nephew Andrew Wolfe, who lives in Paris, France, and a niece Amy Powell Burrus who lives in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He is remembered for his wonderful smile, consistently optimistic approach to life, kindness and generosity.

An online video memorial service for immediate family members was held on Sunday, April 5. A memorial service for friends and colleagues will be held later this year in Princeton, after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided and travel restrictions have been lifted.

Charitable contributions may be made in his honor to MDS research at Columbia University, where one of his doctors oversees an MDS research program doing cutting-edge research to understand and combat the disease. Make check payable to: Trustees of Columbia University and mail to Dr. Azra Raza, MDS Research Program, Columbia University Medical Center, Milstein Hospital Building, 6GN-435, 177 Fort Washington Avenue, New York, NY 10032.

An alternative for charitable contributions is the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, one of the premier land conservation organizations in the U.S. Since 1960, NJCF has protected over 125,000 acres of natural areas and farmland in New Jersey. Make check payable to: New Jersey Conservation Foundation and mail to Executive Director Michele Byers, Bamboo Brook, 170 Longview Road, Far Hills, NJ 07931.