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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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WCU Honors Revered Cherokee Elder During Spring Commencement
by Special to the Citizen-Times
Cherokee 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," Belcher read.

"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."

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