The dedication of Wold House recognizes the Wold family’s longtime support of the Williston community
Peter Wold ’67 likes to recount the story of his arrival at Williston in the fall of 1964, having made the three-day drive with his parents from their home in Casper, Wyoming. The family pulled up in front of the Chapel on the first day of school, and dropped off their son in a place he had seen before only in photographs. In saying goodbye, his father, John, a prominent figure in the oil industry who in a few years would become the first geologist elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, offered a piece of advice that Peter has not forgotten. “He said, ‘This school will provide you with many opportunities. Work hard. Take advantage of them,’” recalls Peter, who had attended ninth grade in Casper and enrolled at Williston on the recommendation of relatives in Longmeadow. “I didn’t know a soul, but within ten minutes there were people helping me into the John Wright dormitory, which was brand new. My love affair with Williston started that day.”
Over the next half century, Peter would demonstrate just how resilient a long-distance relationship can be. After graduation, he returned to the west to attend Colorado State University and to build his own career, beginning with a venture in trout farming, then working for various energy companies before joining his father and brother at Wold Oil Properties, where he is now senior partner. He too became a leader in his community and the oil industry—as a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives; on the boards of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, the Denver Federal Reserve Bank, the Wyoming Enhanced Oil Recovery Commission, and Oppenheimer Funds; and serving as an advisor for the University of Wyoming’s School of Environment and Natural Resources.
And yet he never lost his connection to Williston. A Trustee from 1999 to 2008, he has been a consistent volunteer for the annual fund and reunion gift committees, with an unbroken four-decade record of giving. His devotion to the school was recognized in 2009 with Williston’s Distinguished Service Award, and in 2012 with the Daniel and Jane Carpenter Award, in honor of his impact as a volunteer. He passed along his love of the school to his son Joe Wold ’06, who followed his father to Williston and there met his future wife, Chelsey Cutting Wold ’07. The two were married at the Chapel.
And now, students arriving on campus are welcomed into a dormitory that bears the Wold family name. The former 194 Main Street dormitory, a cornerstone of the recently completed Residential Quad, was rededicated in October as Wold House at a ceremony attended by Peter, his wife Marla, daughter Abbie Long, Joe and Chelsea, and other family members.“That was touching,” Peter says of the event, which featured the school community decked out in customized Wold House T-shirts.
That a school can shape a young life is a phenomenon Peter understands well. Among his Williston classmates, few came from as far as Wyoming, and he was initially apprehensive about leaving his Casper friends and the west’s wide-open spaces. But his time at Williston soon taught him to believe in his ability to accomplish big things. “It gave me a sense of confidence that I could go away to a place where I had never been before, and make a success of it,” he explains.
And make a success he did, particularly as an athlete. Peter was co-captain of the football team, played lacrosse, and tried one season of hockey, but his greatest accomplishments were as a pole vaulter. He won the New England championship in that event and for a time held the school record. In his three years as a Wildcat, he developed lasting friendships with his coaches, particularly Rick Francis and Dan Carpenter, as well as Headmaster Phil Stephens, who “helped me out of any number of tight pinches.”
The confidence borne of his experiences in the classroom and on the athletic fields would prove to be one of Williston’s most lasting gifts. “When I graduated and went on to Colorado State University, it was a lot easier transition for me than it would have been had I stayed in Casper,” he recalls. “That really impacted me for the rest of my life. It gave me the confidence that, under most circumstances, I could deal with things.”
And in his line of work, there is no shortage of things to deal with. “You have to be very nimble if you’re going to be in the energy industry,” he explains. Over the years, his company has been involved with mining minerals, coal, talc, and uranium, and more recently, with developing wind power, in addition to its oil and gas exploration and development projects in Wyoming and around the world. “You’ve got to look ahead and figure out what’s going to have a tailwind behind it, and what’s going to have a headwind, then try to move in the direction that you see having a strong economic future.”
One investment long backed by the Wolds is education. “The recognition that education is so important has always been a part of our family operation,” says Peter, noting that his grandfather was the longtime head of the physics department at Union College. “Whether it’s our own education or providing an opportunity for somebody else, we have always tried to be at the forefront of that.” Peter’s father, John, in turn, instilled in his sons the value of civic participation. “Whether you’re giving of your time or your resources, it’s important that you be a contributor,” Peter says. “Because of the impact that Williston had on me, I have felt strongly that I wanted to do as much as I possibly can for Williston.”
In 2019, for example, the family established the Wold Family Financial Aid Fund, given to qualifying scholar-athletes, preferably one who plays hockey, as Joe Wold did as co-captain of the 2006 varsity hockey team. For Peter, supporting a student who is active in extra-curriculars builds on the advice given to him by his father all those years ago, and which he believes still holds true. “There are so many opportunities that Williston provides, in addition to the academic structure,” he says to students today. “So, work hard, do well, but take time to take advantage of those opportunities.”