Obituary Prof. Stanley Wolpert

Obituary Prof. Stanley Wolpert

By: Manzoor Qureshi

A dedicated teacher, a renowned historian and a prolific author

Renowned American historian of South Asia and an excellent biographer of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah Prof. Stanley Wolpert passed away on February 19. In his long career as an author, teacher and political commentator, Prof. Wolpert published 15 books, including four novels, but the one that made him a must read in Pakistan is Jinnah of Pakistan, published in 1982. It is among the best biographies of the Quaid. Prof. Wolpert is widely known and respected in Pakistan owing to this monumental book.

Stanley Albert Wolpert was born on December 23, 1927, in Brooklyn, New York, to Russian Jewish parents. His first visit to Bombay, India, left him awestruck with the presence and role of Jinnah and Gandhi in Indian politics. Soon after returning home, he abandoned a stable career in marine engineering and started studying Indian history, developing a knack for it. He received his bachelorette in 1953 from City College and completed his Master’s degree in 1955 and PhD in 1959 from the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation was selected for the biennial Watumull Prize of the American Historical Association in 1962 and was acknowledged as one of the finest books on history of Indo-Pak Subcontinent published in the United States.

Prof. Wolpert started his academic career as an instructor in the Department of History at UCLA in 1959. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1960 and later associate professor in 1963. In 1975, Wolpert was awarded UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award in recognition of his efforts.

Stanley’s devotion to teaching earned him the gratitude and affection of thousands of students over the course of his 59-year teaching career. He taught his last seminar at the age of 90.

Prof. Wolpert visited Pakistan in December 2001 on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of the Founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He was invited to speak at an event at the Governor House, Karachi. In his address, Prof. Wolpert stated that Quaid-i-Azam was a man who primarily focused on the importance of honesty, fair play and primacy of legal integrity throughout his life. Drawing a parallel between Mr Jinnah and other Indian leaders, Wolpert said that in many ways Jinnah and Gandhi were giants of the South Asian history whereas Nehru was far behind them and diminished both in terms of character, consistency and his role was not only a negative one and harsh but also emotionally driven.

Wolpert further said that Jinnah’s vision was clearly set out when he said as early as 1940 that Muslims of the Subcontinent are not a minority but a nation. Wolpert called upon the people of Pakistan to reflect upon and seek inspiration from the struggles, achievement and vision of Quaid-i-Azam so that a well-disciplined and organized nation can emerge.

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