A Lawrence man who once co-owned one of the countryÃ¢ÂÂs premier classroom instructional film companies died Wednesday.
Art Wolf, 85, whose Centron Inc. churned out educational films once seen by thousands of students, was described by those who knew and worked for him as a visionary, a leader and a gentleman.
Ã¢ÂÂHe was a wonderful person for the city of Lawrence,Ã¢ÂÂ said Chuck Warner, president of U.S. Bank, who worked as business manager at Centron for 17 years.
Wolf and partners Russell Mosser and Fred Montgomey started Centron in 1947 in an old theater building across from the Douglas County Courthouse in the 1100 block of Massachusetts Street. In 1955 they moved into a new studio at 1621 W. Ninth St.
Ã¢ÂÂHe had a variety of talents,Ã¢ÂÂ Mosser, who still lives in Lawrence, said of Wolf. Ã¢ÂÂHe could write scripts, and he was an excellent photographer. He had the ability to write original music for films. He was really kind of a renaissance man.Ã¢ÂÂ
Centron didnÃ¢ÂÂt use professional actors, but instead used Lawrence students and residents in industrial and classroom films. Wolf trained all of CentronÃ¢ÂÂs early production people, Mosser said.
The companyÃ¢ÂÂs first film, Ã¢ÂÂSewing Simple Seams,Ã¢ÂÂ was only 10 minutes long. Other films included Ã¢ÂÂCheating,Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂThe Gossip,Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂThe Trouble MakerÃ¢ÂÂ and Ã¢ÂÂWhat About Juvenile Delinquency.Ã¢ÂÂ
The company received more than 400 national and international film awards. Its 1969 film Ã¢ÂÂLeo Beuerman,Ã¢ÂÂ about a severely handicapped man who refused to give in to self pity, was nominated for an Academy Award for short subjects documentary.
Ã¢ÂÂArt was very creative, but he was also a practical businessman,Ã¢ÂÂ Mosser said. Ã¢ÂÂHe knew how to make films on a budget.Ã¢ÂÂ
Trudy Travis, Lawrence, went to work for Centron in 1947 and didnÃ¢ÂÂt retire until 1985, after the company was sold in 1984.
Travis said Wolf gave her key job responsibilities that most companies didnÃ¢ÂÂt give women at the time. She was writing scripts and interviewing top business leaders around the country for film projects.
Ã¢ÂÂSometimes he would let me direct my own film,Ã¢ÂÂ Travis said. Ã¢ÂÂHe was a man ahead of his time.Ã¢ÂÂ
John Ã¢ÂÂBuckÃ¢ÂÂ Newsom agreed. Newsom, Lawrence, had ended a long career in the U.S. Navy and started another at Centron, where he became vice president of sales.
Ã¢ÂÂIt was a unique experience,Ã¢ÂÂ Newsom said of work at Centron. Ã¢ÂÂHe (Wolf) was always on the cutting edge of anything new in film technology.Ã¢ÂÂ
Wolf also was involved in the community as a longtime member of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.
Ã¢ÂÂHe wore very well with people,Ã¢ÂÂ Mosser said. Ã¢ÂÂHe was well-liked.Ã¢ÂÂ