elder and "Beloved Man" Jeremiah "Jerry" Wolfe was awarded
an honorary doctorate by Western Carolina University. (photo
by: Ashley T. Evans - courtesy of WCU)
Cullowhee, NC Commencement at Western Carolina University
included the awarding of an honorary doctorate of humane letters
to Jeremiah "Jerry" Wolfe, an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee
Indians and U.S. Navy veteran of World War II.
Wolfe taught young men and women at the Oconaluftee Job Corps
in Cherokee for more than 20 years, and since 1997 has worked in
outreach and education at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, where
he has shared his extensive knowledge of tribal history and culture
with thousands of visitors.
Over the years, he also has presented programs on those topics
across the state and Southeast and has been interviewed and featured
in many publications and video productions.
While presenting the honorary doctorate to Wolfe, WCU Chancellor
David O. Belcher read from the degree citation and called Wolfe
a "cherished living repository" of his tribe's wisdom and said his
efforts have enriched the cultural landscape of Western North Carolina,
the state and nation.
"Jeremiah 'Jerry' Wolfe, you have served with exemplary distinction
and dedication throughout your life as a member of your community
and as a conservator and icon of Cherokee language and culture,"
"You have been a tradition-bearer for the Eastern Band of Cherokee
Indians, preserving and teaching the Cherokee language, stickball
traditions, knowledge of plants and traditional medicine, myths
and legends, and oral history.
"In 2013, in recognition of your tremendous knowledge and service
to your people, the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band bestowed
upon you the title of 'Beloved Man.' You are the first Cherokee
man to be honored with that distinction in more than 200 years."
After he accepted the honorary degree, Wolfe invited the Ramsey
Center audience to join him in singing the hymn "Amazing Grace"
as he sang it in the Cherokee language.
"Thank you very much for this wonderful recognition," he said.
"I am honored as a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokees to receive
it. I am proud to be included with all of the students that are
receiving their degrees here today."