Pivoting with excellence: Nelson Wolff

January 08, 2021

Nelson W. Wolff (B.B.A. ’66, J.D. ’66)  
Bexar County Judge 

by Alex Z. Salinas (B.A. ’11, M.A. ’19)

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your personal life? 

A: I do a daily broadcast (with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg), and we’ve been doing this since March, can you believe it? Seven days a week for a while; now it’s five days a week, every night at about 6 o’clock. Before the pandemic, I’d never heard of WebEx or Skype, and now, I’m able to do all of that. It’s changed my life in the sense that I get a lot more done in a relatively short period of time. I do a lot more work at my library at home, which is cool. 

Q: How has the pandemic impacted your professional life?  

A: We expect about one-fourth of our workforce to continue to work at home after the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s going to change our economy from low-end jobs that were in hotels and motels, and some of the jobs that automation has taken.  

We’ll be focusing on job training programs that will fit into industries like advanced manufacturing, health care and technology that are going to change the dynamics of the economy.  

Q: How have you reflected on your role in continuing the St. Mary’s mission during this time?  

A: I’m big into therapeutic justice. The pandemic shows that when our jail population went down, we didn’t have any more crime, because they (our police force) weren’t charging people with minor offenses. … When I became Bexar County Judge, there were 4,000 people in jail. Twenty years later, we have 3,800 in jail and 500,000 more people moving to San Antonio. And that’s because we’ve created therapeutic justice by creating specialty courts. We now have drug courts, veterans courts, where you work with somebody and you get them out on probation where they don’t go into the jail. We have a reentry center. We have 80 or 90 social service agencies helping people when they come out. We’re trying to put a lot of money into programs dealing with mental health and drug-use prevention. 

Q: How do you feel your St. Mary’s education helped prepare you for your leadership role, especially in a time of uncertainty? 

A: St. Mary’s is about compassion — caring for everybody, caring for the poor. St. Mary’s taught me to be compassionate. I’ve noticed people walking around their neighborhoods, sitting on their front porches. They’re making meaningful connections with other people who they never met before in their neighborhoods. There’s some good coming out of this pandemic. 

More about how the St. Mary's University community responded to the pandemic:

Pivoting with excellence: Academic Technology Services staff step up to ensure seamless online instruction

Prior to Spring 2020, Academic Technology Services provided Online Teaching Certification to about 12 faculty members each semester. Between April and the start of Fall 2020 classes, a staggering 170 faculty members completed the training.

Pivoting with excellence: Alejandra “Alex” Lopez

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with alumna Alejandra "Alex" Lopez, Economic Development Director for the City of San Antonio.

Pivoting with excellence: Allison Gray

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with theology professor Allison Gray.

Pivoting with excellence: Alumna’s advice as nurse during pandemic: ‘be kinder to one another’

June 23, 2020. Riverside, California – an hour’s drive from Los Angeles. A makeshift emergency room without air-conditioning inside Parkview Community Hospital – a small-volume hospital that served mostly nursing home patients before the coronavirus pandemic.

Pivoting with excellence: Communications professor puts student needs first

Taking advantage of the flexibilities of online learning, Communications Assistant Professor Amanda Hill, Ph.D., has made virtual learning more beneficial for all her students.

Pivoting with excellence: George Hernandez Jr.

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with alumnus George Hernandez Jr., President and CEO of University Health System.

Pivoting with excellence: Housekeeping staff continue their spotless record

During a pandemic, proper cleaning is crucial. Fortunately for the St. Mary’s community, the Housekeeping Department went above and beyond even before COVID-19.

Pivoting with excellence: Hugo P. Salazar Jr., M.D.

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with University physician Dr. Hugo Salazar.

Pivoting with excellence: Juan Ocampo

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with engineering professor Juan Ocampo.

Pivoting with excellence: Men’s Soccer captain continues studies from Brazil

Deni Cresto, a junior from Curitiba, Brazil, studying Exercise and Sport Science, often refers to a message from St. Mary’s University Men’s Soccer Head Coach Johnny Clifford: “Control what you can control.”

Pivoting with excellence: Rattler Success Center supports students in online learning

At the University made the transition to online, the Rattler Success Center (RSC) was one step ahead, having already begun online tutoring earlier in the 2019-2020 academic year.

Pivoting with excellence: Robbie Bishop-Monroe

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with business professor Robbie Bishop-Monroe.

Pivoting with excellence: St. Mary’s community adapts in response to pandemic

At St. Mary’s University, at no time in our history has our ability to succeed as a team been tested as it has amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At no time has our ability to come together ensured the future of the University and our region as we have this year.

Pivoting with excellence: Sung-Tae (Daniel) Kim

In an effort to spotlight those who are Pivoting with Excellence, Gold & Blue sat down with business professor Sung-Tae (Daniel) Kim.

Pivoting with excellence: The Rattler Impact Scholarship awards over $1.2 million to nearly 1,000 students

In July, through the generosity of the St. Mary’s University Alumni Association, President Mengler and his wife, Mona, combined with University funds, St. Mary’s offered the Rattler Impact Scholarship to further support nearly 1,000 students in Fall 2020.

Pivoting with excellence: Mask Squad takes on safety measures

Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear masks. The Mask Squad — a group of about 80 St. Mary’s University students who were trained and are committed to the health and safety of every member of our community — have worked to stem the spread of COVID-19 on campus this fall.

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