Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Partner, Eaton & Van Winkle, LLP
Most influential Adelphi faculty: “Dr. Robert Ernst, who was my mentor; also professors Chester Barrows, Clifford Cave, James Wilbur, and Richard Clemo.”
Adelphi memory: “Calling Columbia Law School from a pay phone downstairs in Levermore Hall to learn that I had been accepted. Adelphi holds many other meaningful memories for me.”
Greatest professional accomplishment: “After serving two years as one of 12 commissioners for the New York State Judicial Commission on Minorities, I was proud to receive special thanks on the front page of the final report. Things have changed over the course of the last two decades. Today in New York, courts seek even harder to provide equal justice under law to all, and I like to think that I made a small contribution to that.”
Advice for Adelphi students: “Don’t forget the importance of hard work and perseverance, setting goals, and sticking to them. Also remember that college is a bonding experience; network and meet people. You should be able to do work and have fun—just have your priorities in order.”
“These days, lawyers in big firms get pigeonholed. You can’t pigeonhole me,” says Steven Wolfe – and he has the track record to prove it. Throughout an impressive career as a partner at several law firms, Steven Wolfe has tackled legal issues ranging from litigation and real estate, to trust and estates, to corporate and commercial matters. He is currently a partner at Eaton & Van Winkle, LLP, a highly-regarded, comprehensive firm where his cases include litigation, estate work, and estate litigation.
His work for the estate of art dealer Klaus Perls, who was being sued by the estate of renowned sculptor Alexander Calder, recently made front page news in The New York Times, and he was successful in having the suit against his clients dismissed.
The ambitious drive that has helped Mr. Wolfe excel in all facets of his career was already evident during his time at Adelphi. A transfer student from Cornell, he entered Adelphi for his junior year. Although not all of his credits carried over, Mr. Wolfe was determined to graduate on schedule, in 1959. “I completed 75 credits in just two years,” he recalls.
With his sights set on a legal career, he declared a political science major at Adelphi. He fondly remembers history and government faculty, particularly Dr. Robert Ernst, who made his Adelphi experience rewarding. “Professor Ernst was a highly knowledgeable and skilled teacher, but he was tough,” says Mr. Wolfe, who received a 73 on Dr. Ernst’s first exam. “I thought the grade was dreadful,” he says. “But when I went to talk to Dr. Ernst about it, he told me I had received the best grade in the class.” Mr. Wolfe, who has always thrived on challenges, went on to take every course Professor Ernst taught. His recollection is that he got an “A” in every such course.
His hard work at Adelphi paid off. Mr. Wolfe scored in the 96th percentile on the LSAT and after graduating from Adelphi, received his law degree from Columbia Law School. Ready to begin his legal career, he got a job at a law firm; however, he didn’t remain there long because the firm offered little autonomy. “The regimentation was not for me,” he says. “I was brought up to have ambition, an entrepreneurial spirit, and to do things on my own.”
Eager to carve a career more in tune with his goals as a lawyer, he joined his father’s law firm in 1963. “I learned a great deal from him,” says Mr. Wolfe, who remained at his father’s firm for 15 years, before embarking on his next career venture in 1977. He remained with that firm for 35 years. Recently, he resigned and joined his present firm as a partner, a career move late in life that some consider intrepid.
“I’ve had a good career, and it’s not over,” says Mr. Wolfe. His key to success is a combination of steadfast dedication and a love for his work. “You really have to like what you do to spend Saturdays in the office,” says Mr. Wolfe, who laughs at the mere thought of retirement. “My wife tells me I will never retire,” he says. “She’s right! Why should I? I’m having a great time.”
Looking back, Mr. Wolfe credits Adelphi with equipping him with the knowledge base and skill set that make an effective lawyer: “I majored in government and history at Adelphi, and was able to fashion a career from this background,” he says. The liberal arts preparation he received at Adelphi has also served him well: “I took a class in persuasive speech with communications professor Richard Clemo,” he says. “Throughout my law career I have drawn from the public speaking skills I gained in that class.”
“Adelphi has played a major role in my life,” he says. “I owe a debt of gratitude to Adelphi.”
Mr. Wolfe has traveled extensively in Europe and North Africa, for both work and pleasure. In his free time, this wine connoisseur also enjoys playing tennis, as well as amateur digital photography and his stamp collection, which he started in 1947.