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UNF’s last original faculty member reminisces, offers advice

Dr. Lou Woods

While students complain about the geese at UNF, imagine having to encounter snakes, pigs, deer and black bears on campus.

Dr. Lou Woods, the only founding faculty member still teaching at UNF, remembers these challenges students faced when the university opened Oct. 2, 1972.

“All of the police officers had snake shots in their pistols,” Woods said. “We didn’t have to worry about folks coming on campus that were predators. Predators are here.”

Woods is an economics and geography professor for UNF Coggin College of Business. He is still teaching one of the first classes taught in the graduate MBA program 40 years ago, Economics of Business Decisions.

When Woods started teaching, UNF was a senior institution that only offered education and business graduate programs to juniors and seniors. There were four buildings and dirt parking lots that turned into mud when it rained. Woods said UNF has grown to become a more sophisticated university since then.

“At the time, we were still using mimeograph machines and stencils to make up quizzes. Now, we have the ability to use electronic options,” he said.

Woods was born in Los Angeles, and moved to Marblehead, Mass., before coming to Florida. His family came to Jacksonville in 1957, and he graduated from Bolles High School, which was a military school at the time. He considered joining the military, but decided to go into teaching instead.

“There was no grand design,” Woods said. “I suspect I got interested in teaching and academics from a professor at Bolles.”

He continued to earn his bachelor’s degree at Jacksonville University, majoring in history and government and minoring in geography. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and taught at East Carolina University for four years.

When Woods discovered a new university was being built in Jacksonville, he took the opportunity to return home and help create the foundation of UNF.

Woods said Joseph Perry, a former UNF director of undergraduate studies in economics, told him that since it was a new school, there were no policies or programs and he could go out and make them.

“The international programs I think are excellent at UNF,” Woods said. “Of course, I had something to do with that.”

Woods said his proudest moment in UNF history was in 1974 when the university became accredited largely through the efforts of the founding faculty.

“UNF has been very fortunate to have good people at the top, solid faculty, good students and students that have gotten degrees and gone out and done substantial things both in the community and in the business world,” Woods said.

One of the major lessons Woods learned from students was to never assume you can take past student behavior year and project it ahead because students constantly bring both good and bad surprises.

He advises graduating students to be flexible when building a career.

“How do you get flexibility? Well, you try to become as aware as you possibly can of trends that are out there in the business world and in other areas,” Woods said.

While he enjoys teaching, Woods said he likes spending time with his family the most.

“Having fun would be caring for my critters,” Woods said. “I still have two children living at home. Jane is a senior in high school, and John is at UNF currently and hopes to graduate and go onto graduate school next year.”

Woods mentioned several former UNF directors he would not want to be forgotten, including Andrew Farkas, library director, and Dr. Stephen Shapiro, center for economic education director.

“I would hope [to be remembered] as someone that has been able to prepare students for the rigorous of life after UNF,” Woods said.

Woods anticipates retiring within the next year and would like to be known for having a collective memory of UNF.

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