Elizabeth (Betsy) H. Call Wolgast

Wolgast Elizabeth (Betsy) H. Call Wolgast, 91, on October 13, 2020, from complications following a stroke, in a convalescent home in Oakland, Calif. She had been living in Berkeley until two weeks prior to her death. Elizabeth was born in Dunellen, N.J., in February 1929 to Frank William Hankins and Evelyn Call. In 1936, the family moved to a farm located outside of Philadelphia, Pa. Elizabeth’s mother (a degreed nutritionist) ran the farm while her father worked in the business community. 

As a young woman, Elizabeth studied watercolor painting, which became a life-long passion. She met her husband, Richard (Dick) Wolgast, went on to earn a doctorate of philosophy at University of Washington, and had a long, distinguished teaching career at the Hayward campus of California State University, East Bay, where she was the first tenured female professor in the philosophy department. Elizabeth enjoyed visiting professorships at Dartmouth College, University of Cambridge (UK), the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Åbo Akademi University (Finland). She authored four philosophy texts and numerous journal articles.

Elizabeth had an inquiring mind and a skeptical nature. While often serious, she could be spontaneous and whimsical. She was an avid reader who enjoyed debating current events as well as global issues. As a philosopher, she manifested the best features of the analytic tradition, a commitment to clarity of expression, and a search for truth. Her devotion to education led her to provide financial assistance to several students struggling with expenses. Following retirement, Elizabeth volunteered in a second grade class in a public school, which brought her great joy.

Elizabeth had been attracted to Friends while a young woman in Philadelphia. She and Dick became members of Berkeley (Calif.) Meeting on May 14, 1967. Elizabeth made Berkeley Meeting her spiritual home for nearly 60 years, serving in a variety of roles and making profound friendships. She and Dick were drawn closer to the meeting during the Vietnam War era. Dick volunteered as a draft counsellor; Elizabeth and Dick supported conscientious objectors and, after much deliberation, invited a Vietnam War draft evader into their home. 

Elizabeth’s love of travel led to many trips to Europe, along with a wildlife tour in Africa. She loved theater and had season tickets to the Berkeley Repertory Theater and the Shotgun Players. Trained to play piano, Elizabeth enjoyed classical music performances at California State University and attended the Bach Festival in Carmel. She was an avid tennis player who played doubles twice a week up until the final years of her life. She loved to ski and enjoyed the outdoors, including visits to her mountain condo, local hikes, and trips to national parks. Dick preceded her in death in 2012 during their sixty-third year of marriage. Her children will miss her intellect, creativity, and humor.

Elizabeth is survived by her daughter, Dr. Johanna Wolgast (Valentin Gorenko); her son, Stephen Wolgast (Jeanne Joanne Wolgast); and one granddaughter.

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