Before I Was: Geology professor boasts many talents

Geology Associate Professor Andrew Wulff is dressed as the Duke in “Romeo and Juliet” for the Baltimore Opera Company in 1986.

Ella Burnside

As a former Division I football player, lacrosse player, professional opera singer, and speaker of five foreign languages, it is safe to say that Andrew Wulff, an associate professor of geology at WKU, is a man of many talents.

Wulff began his music career at age 10 in singing competitions as a soprano in choirs.

“My mom always told us ‘God made you unique and your job is to be the best that you can be with what He gave you,’” Wulff said.  

While in high school he continued to pursue music and was in a band that covered songs by Led Zeppelin. After high school, Wulff took voice lessons at Oberlin College’s musical conservatory after his roommate encouraged him to do so. He also continued to play in bands while in college and was a member of a punk rock band known as “The Vile Tones” and was the front man of a Motown group called “Andy and The Badness.”

Though he never thought about pursuing music professionally, Wulff found himself climbing quickly through the ranks of the opera world. Wulff said that his success in opera was directly related to football and lacrosse, both of which he played at Oregon State. He also took up fencing. Because of his diversity and his physical ability, directors were able to do more with him. This made him a desirable person to cast in important productions.

Since he began performing professionally, Wulff has sung principal roles with opera companies such as the Washington Opera, the Baltimore Opera, and the Santa Fe Opera. He has also studied opera under vocal coaches Carlo Bergonzi, John Fiorito, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, and Malena Malas. He has directed more than 30 productions.

Opera is not the only place where Wulff has experienced great success. He can speak five languages in addition to English — German, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French — and says he can speak enough Russian and Indonesian in order to “barely get by.”

When asked how his diverse experiences affect his work in the classroom, Wulff said that he thinks it’s important that his students see that he is a “whole person.”

Students have many gifts and talents outside the classroom that contribute to their life in meaningful ways, Wulff said.

“I think it is a disservice to put aside the things that make students whole,” he said. “We’re trying to prepare people for the next 40 years of their life, and their work will be a part of that, but if they have a satisfying life outside of work then they are going to be happy.”

According to fellow geology professor Michael May, Wulff is a “life lesson” professor.

“It’s not just about geology for him. I think for a lot of students he’s like a life coach,” May said. “He wants to tell you a little bit about his world but at the same time he wants to know about yours.”

May also said that Wulff is the go-to person for undergraduate students. Every spring break he leads a group of students on a weeklong trip to the Mojave Desert in Southern California.

“What he does with students taking them out to the Mojave Desert is like an anatomy professor showing students a cadaver,” May said. “He is providing them an unobstructed view of all the parts of geology.”

Michael Powers, a senior from Bowling Green, agreed that Wulff goes above and beyond for his students.

“He’s always trying to get students involved in research,” Powers said. “It’s more than just the classroom for him. He gives presentations to elementary school students with some of the undergraduate students and he’ll teach the kids about earth science — I’ve gone with him three times.”

Wulff spoke of his perception of how he has approached success in all of the areas he has worked in. The professor pointed directly to his department’s attitude about success.

“In our department we have a saying which is, ‘Luck is where preparation meets opportunity’ so there’s really no such thing as luck,” Wulff said. “You can’t control your opportunity but you can control your preparation.”