Former University of Alaska president dead at age 94

Posted: Monday, February 26, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- William Wood, who was the fourth president of the University of Alaska and is credited with turning a single-campus school into a major university, died Sunday.

Wood died at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. He was 94.

Wood served as university president from 1960 to 1973. During his tenure the university expanded from College Hill in Fairbanks to communities across Alaska, including Anchorage and Juneau.

''As leader of the university, he built a major educational institution with an international reputation for excellence and extended its service to the entire state. As a private citizen, he never stopped trying to make his community and his state a better place, both by his own doing and exhorting others to do their best,'' university President Mark Hamilton said in a statement.

Wood became president on July 1, 1960. At the time, the university consisted of a single campus with 921 students. When he retired, more than three times that number of students were enrolled at the Fairbanks campus and about the same number were enrolled at the Anchorage campus. The University of Alaska had become a statewide institution covering three regions and had eight community colleges.

Wood also was instrumental in increasing the university's operating budget from about $5.7 million in fiscal 1959 to nearly $41.7 million in fiscal 1971.

Wood was born near Jacksonville, Ill., on Feb. 3, 1907. He received his bachelor's degree from Illinois College in 1927 and his doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1939. He played basketball with the Kelly Springfields and the Michigan Mentors from 1927 to 1936.

He was in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946 and served in World War II. Wood then returned to Evanston, Ill., where he was a college director and school superintendent. He also worked for the United States Office of Education as an education specialist. He served as vice president and acting president of the University of Nevada before joining the University of Alaska in 1960.

Wood retired from the university in 1973 and stayed in Alaska. He served as Fairbanks' mayor from 1978 to 1980, and spearheaded projects to revitalize the downtown. He also was executive vice president of the Fairbanks Industrial Development Corp. from 1973 to 1980.

In 1982, he created the nonprofit Festival Fairbanks to improve life in the Interior city and served as its volunteer executive director. He was named Alaskan of the Year in 1985. Wood wrote a weekly column for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner until early this year.

''He was a visionary the likes of which we won't see for a very, very long time,'' said Michelle Calvillo, director of Festival Fairbanks who worked with Wood for 14 years. ''He was a true statesman and a true friend.''

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