When Gov. Tony Knowles left the bedside of William R. Wood, he went scrambling for a pen and paper to write down the list of projects and ideas that the dying Wood had suggested to him.
Wood also offered ideas for improving Alaska to Sen. Frank Murkowski, Fairbanks Mayor Jim Hayes and Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles. Like Knowles, they had come to say goodbye and, like the governor, they went away amazed by the 94-year-old man's mental acuity and his down-to-the-end concern for the community and his fellow Alaskans.
Wood moved to Fairbanks from Nevada in 1960 to become president of the University of Alaska. He retired in 1973 and became a civic activist, a die-hard Fairbanksan and a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner columnist.
Wood is credited with modernizing the University of Alaska. He also played a leadership role in opening the way for construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline. When the proposed pipeline bogged down in green politics and controversy, Wood worked to substitute science for emotionalism, bringing industry leaders and their technical staffs together to begin a creative dialogue.
The pipeline project ultimately was delayed for years, first by the need to resolve the land claims of Alaska Natives and later by environmental lobbying. But the dialogue Wood initiated between industry and the University of Alaska continued and helped pave the way for a pipeline uniquely well designed for the land and rivers it traversed.
William R. Wood accomplished much in his 94 years, but his ever-keen mind could come up with more ideas for improving Alaska and Fairbanks than even he could get done. So, typically, he left a to-do list for the world he was departing.
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