B. Wolfman, 87; was 1970s dean at Penn Law

Bernard Wolfman also taught at Harvard Law School.
Bernard Wolfman also taught at Harvard Law School.
Posted: August 27, 2011

Bernard Wolfman, 87, the University of Pennsylvania Law School dean from 1970 to 1975, died of heart failure Saturday, Aug. 20, while visiting a relative in West Orange, N.J. He resided in Cambridge, Mass.

Michael A. Fitts, current Penn Law dean, wrote in an appreciation on the Penn Law website: "For more than 60 years, Bernie was a highly distinguished tax academic and expert - as well as a very loyal Penn alumnus. He will be greatly missed."

Mr. Wolfman went on to be Fessenden Professor of Law at Harvard Law School from 1976 to 2007.

Martha Minow, Harvard Law dean, noted on the Harvard Law website that "his contributions to tax and ethics, and his devoted teaching and mentoring of students and young colleagues, will long endure as will his distinguished public interest advocacy and service to the profession."

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Wolfman was valedictorian of the Class of 1940 at Central High School and earned a bachelor's in political science in 1946 and a law degree in 1948, both at Penn.

His daughter, Dina Baker, said that after World War II interrupted his studies at Penn, he was an Army infantryman until being injured in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.

She said he returned to Penn on an accelerated program for servicemen, both as an undergraduate and as a law student.

He then worked at the Wolf Block law firm in Philadelphia for 15 years before joining the Penn Law faculty in 1963 as the Kenneth W. Gemmill Professor of Tax Law and Tax Policy.

In his last three years at Wolf Block, he had been an adjunct teacher at Penn Law. While at Penn, he lived in Elkins Park.

From 1963 to 1968, while at Penn, he was a tax policy consultant to the U.S. Treasury Department, a role he reprised from 1977 to 1980.

In 1964, also while at Penn, Mr. Wolfman was a visiting professor at Harvard Law, its website stated.

In 1970, a newspaper report stated that he was among 300 lawyers who signed a 10-page statement that opposed the ultimately unsuccessful nomination of G. Harrold Carswell to the U.S. Supreme Court, based in part on allegations of lack of qualifications.

In the 1975-76 academic year, between his Penn and Harvard appointments, he was at the Center for Advanced Study at Stanford University.

From 1974 to 1994, he was a consultant to the Federal Income Tax Project of the American Law Institute.

And from 1987 to 1989, he was a special consultant to Lawrence Walsh when Walsh was the independent counsel in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Mr. Wolfman was a president of the Federal Tax Institute of New England, and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the American College of Tax Counsel.

For the American Bar Association, he was a council director of three committees, on corporate taxation, standards of tax practice, and tax policy and simplification.

Among his writings, he was the senior author of Dissent Without Opinion: The Behavior of Justice William O. Douglas in Federal Tax Cases, published in 1975.

In 1963, he was a member of the board of trustees of the Federation of Jewish Agencies in Philadelphia.

In 1971, the Jewish Theological Seminary gave him an honorary doctorate of laws.

Besides his daughter, he is survived by wife Toni, sons Jonathan and Brian, stepsons Jeffrey and David Braemer, a sister, and 10 grandchildren. His first wife, Zelda, died in 1973.

A funeral took place Monday, Aug. 22.


Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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