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A Catholic you want to know: Dr. Patrick Wolf

University of Arkansas professor advocates for Catholic education

Published: September 26, 2017   
Alesia Schaefer
Dr. Patrick Wolf, professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas and a parishioner at St. Joseph Parish in Fayetteville, serves on the governing board of the new northwest Arkansas Catholic high school.

Why you want to know Dr. Patrick Wolf: Patrick is both a leader and advocate for education policy and serves as distinguished professor and endowed chair in school choice in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Besides teaching a graduate course and a seminar class at UA, he is a national lecturer, has written four books and published more than 50 journal articles on school choice. He continues to research this subject as well as champion educational reform nationally and in Arkansas. He is active on pro-life issues and has also served on the school board at St. Joseph School in Fayetteville. Currently, Wolf works on the planning and governing board of the area’s first Catholic high school, Ozark Catholic Academy.

Parish: St. Joseph Church

City: Fayetteville

Age: 52

Family: Patrick has been married to Kathleen Ann Wolf for 23 years and the couple has two sons, Alexander Patrick, 21; and Brendan David, 16.

Education: University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.; Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science, master’s degree and doctorate in political science

Profession: Professor of education policy, University of Arkansas



Arkansas Catholic’s theme this year is “The truth will set you free.” What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
My favorite verse is John 21:17. This is the verse where Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” three times and when Peter answers for the third time, Jesus tells him to “feed my sheep.” I love the repetition of this question because like Peter, we are all flawed human beings and Jesus had to repeat it. I feel it represents how hard it is for God to get to us at times. And, just as important, if we love Christ we are to serve his people.

Besides your profession, you continue to spend your spare time serving on school boards and in areas that benefit education. Why?
I have always felt that I needed to give back because of all the generosity extended to me over the years. I grew up in a single-parent household with two sisters. The two factors that influenced our lives the most were our Catholic faith and our Catholic education. Catholic education was our only luxury and it ended up being the cornerstone in my life.

You attended Catholic schools from first grade to college. Has your study of school choice programs and the data you have compiled made a compelling argument for Catholic schools as an important educational choice?
I studied private school choice programs as well as educational choices for disadvantaged families. Catholic schools are the most dominant private schools. By studying school choice, I ended up studying Catholic education. I have seen so many success stories in the 18 years I have been studying school choice and Catholic schooling, and it has reinforced the idea that Catholic schools are instruments of God’s grace.

You have advocated 17 times at the state legislature and written your latest book on “The School Choice Journey.” Why is school choice important?
This gives parents the ability to customize their child’s education with more options. But there are only 26 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have a private school choice program. The state of Florida has shown that it can be successful with 100,000 students participating in private school choice. I am anxious for our state to take a step forward in that direction.

What are some other ways that you serve in your parish and community?
Being as Catholic education is important to me, I served for 11 years on St. Joseph’s school board, two of those years as president and I’ve been involved from the beginning with the founding of Ozark Catholic Academy to be located in Tontitown. ... I also served for six years on the board of directors for Loving Choices Crisis Pregnancy Center with four of those years as the chairperson. Here at the university, I also serve as the faculty advisor for the Students for Life Club.

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