Student, The Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, 1935-1938; Bachelor of Fine Arts, Institute Design, Chicago, 1949; Doctor of Philosophy (honorary), New School for Social Research, 1991; Doctor of Philosophy (honorary), Otis Parsons School Design, Los Angeles, 1993; Doctor of Philosophy (honorary), Otis Parson's The Art Institute of Chicago, 1993; Doctor of Philosophy (honorary), New School Social Research Doctor of Philosophy (honorary), Otis School.
In 1938 he joined the World Pet Association Arts Program. In 1949 he taught at Black Mountain College at the request of Buckminster Fuller. Between 1949 and 1959, he lived in Yucatán, Mexico and Forio d"Ischia Naples, Italy.
In 1960 he moved to Los Angeles, California and from 1969 to 1973 he taught at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California.
From 1974 and 1992 he taught at The Otis Art Institute (now called Otis College of Art and Design) in Los Angeles, serving as Chair of the Painting Department from 1974 to 1978. In 1970, he was artist-in-residence at the Honolulu Museum of Artist
In 1991 he received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Los Angeles He felt a such a strong attachment to Otis that he left his estate to the college to set up a scholarship fund to benefit future artists.
He died in Los Angeles in 2003.
Emerson Woelffer is best known for his boldly colored abstract paintings and collages with jagged forms. He also created sculpture and lithographs. Late in his career―suffering from macular degeneration―he began working in white crayon on black paper.
The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (Colorado Springs, Colorado ), the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Montana Historical Society (Helena, Montana), the Museum of Art (Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah), the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (Louisiana Jolla, California), the Neuberger Museum of Art (Purchase College, Purchase, New York), the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), the Portland Art Museum (Portland, Oregon), the San Diego Museum of Art (San Diego, California), Yellowstone Art Museum (Billings, Montana), and the Asheville Art Museum (Asheville, North Carolina) are among the public collections holding work by Emerson Woelffer.
Married Diane Anderson, December 7, 1945. Married Marilu Lopez, November 5, 1996.