ACU benefactor Robert Woodward dies in Kerrville

Posted September 02, 2010

Robert R. “Bob” Woodward, 83, whose transformational gift to Abilene Christian University’s College of Biblical Studies in 1998 was the largest in ACU history, died Aug. 30 in Kerrville, Texas.

“Throughout the life of any organization, there are always a few who make transforming contributions,” said ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert. “Bob and Mary Woodward have filled that role in the life of ACU. This university has been forever changed by their generosity. Their passion for Christian education, their love for young people, and their humble, generous spirit should serve as a wonderful example for us all.”

Bob was born July 13, 1927, in Houston to Grace Logan Woodward and Harley Emerson Woodward. He served in the Navy during World War II and enrolled at Texas A&M University afterward, but was called away to run a ranch owned by his grandfather. He became a highly successful rancher and businessman, and a respected Bible teacher who authored a set of commentaries on the New Testament. For decades after his father's death in 1936, Bob and his mother, Grace, followed through on a longstanding Woodward family tradition of being anonymous benefactors of countless churches and children’s homes.

In 1998, Bob established the Grace L. Woodward Memorial Endowment Trust at ACU in honor of his mother, who died in 1997. The $26.5 million estate gift was, at the time, one of the 10 largest private gifts in Texas higher education history. Jacob’s Dream, a dramatic outdoor sculpture on campus by ACU art and design department chair Jack Maxwell, was dedicated in September 2006 to commemorate the Woodwards’ extraordinary generosity.

Dr. Jack Reese, dean of ACU’s College of Biblical Studies, said his college is substantially different today than it would have been without Woodward's generosity.

“It's not just that we could add faculty and substantially increase holdings in the theological library, as significant as those additions are,“ Reese said.  “But the remarkable Woodward gift has made it possible for us to reduce student debt through major scholarships and radically improve our partnership with churches. Bob's gift to our college reflected his passion. As a result, God was glorified and His work was blessed. Faculty, students and church leaders around the world are grateful.”

“Bob; his wife, Mary; and his mother have been tremendous friends of ACU for many years,” said ACU vice chancellor Dan Garrett, who also is president of The ACU Foundation. “Bob was not seeking personal recognition for his selfless act in helping transfer his mother's estate to ACU, a gift that created the largest single endowment in the university's 105-year history to help advance the Kingdom. Only Heaven will ever know the full impact of the life and generosity of Grace Woodward and her son, Bob. He was a quiet, gentle, giant man of faith and integrity. He will be missed.”

Phil Boone, ACU vice president for advancement, said the Woodward gift has inspired others as well. “I don't know if Bob intended this impact or not, but several courageous people now pray for God's generosity to enable them to surpass this ‘largest single gift’ ever given to ACU,” Boone said. “What an inspiration!”

Survivors include his wife of 35 years, Mary; four daughters, Beverly Starr, Barbara White, Bobbie Jones and Bethe Deal; stepsons Bill H. Soyars and Tom Soyars; eight grandchildren; six step-grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Woodward’s memorial service will be Sept. 2 at 10 a.m. at the Riverside Church of Christ in Kerrville. A private family burial service will follow in Concan. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Grimes Funeral Home, 728 Jefferson Street, Kerrville, Texas 78028 (830-257-4544).


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