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EDUCATIONAL AMBASSADOR

His father was born into poverty and unable to travel.

Yet Howard Wolf's dad gave his son his first atlas and quizzed him about faraway places.

"As a young American who became aware of the world during the Second World War, I was an instant patriot and wanted to be sent to some far-flung part of the globe so that I could fight the fascists and save people who were suffering," notes Wolf, a University at Buffalo English professor.

Since then, his profession has taken him on the roads less traveled. He recently returned from Israel but has also taught in nearly 20 countries, including China, Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Thailand. In June, he'll be in the Slovak Republic.

Along the way, he has had many adventures. He was almost shot by a "Guarda Civilia" on a remote road in Spain, was on the coast of the Arabian sea where the tsunami hit and risked getting crushed when he found himself in the middle of an anti-government labor march in India.

"But here I am," says the two-time Fulbright award winner, who also chatted with Ernest Hemingway in Paris' Ritz Bar.

"America is of interest to students around the world because of the dominance of America as a world power and the need to understand this geo-political giant. . . .' And then there's the prevalence of American popular culture around the world -- movies and TV -- and interest in our country which this media evokes."

His Israel lectures were sponsored by the U.S. Embassy. His writing has been translated into every language from Mandarin to Finnish to Oriya of India.

As far away as Israel, people associate Buffalo with snow, the English prof said. But they really perk up "when you tell them about all the fresh water to which we have access, and the fact that Grand Island was once imagined in the 1840s as a possible homeland for the Jews with the name of 'Ararat.' The stone for this 'city of refuge for the Jews,' laid in 1825, can be seen in the Buffalo Historical Society."

A taste for travel is apparently genetic in the Wolf clan.

His daughter Alexis, a 1983 City Honors graduate and former Buffalo social worker, now lives in Israel with her husband, Sharon.

He visited them near Tiberius, one of the four sacred cities of Israel.

"Tiberius bears the archaeological imprint of several civilizations -- ancient Hebrew, Roman, Arab, Ottoman and British," says Wolf, who's penned 11 books and holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan. He'll soon publish "The Education of Ludwig Fried," which he'll read from in the Slovak Republic.

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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