1960-1973 William R. Wood

Dr. William Ransom Wood Photo: UAF Rasmuson Library, Photo Archives
Dr. William Ransom Wood Photo: UAF Rasmuson Library, Photo Archives

Wood assumed the presidency of the University of Alaska in 1960, a year after Alaska became a state, and guided the university for the next 13 years. Prior to that, he had been vice president of the University of Nevada and had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

With statehood, Alaskans were able to provide greater funding for university operations and physical plant development. Federal funds also became available to help the rapidly growing institution broaden its academic, research, and public-service programs.

A decentralization of the administration to bring the university closer to the people it serves, began in 1964. Subsequently three regions—northern, southeastern, and southcentral—were established, each with a provost to coordinate and direct activities within it. Regional centers were established at Anchorage and Juneau, where community college programs were augmented by upper-division and graduate studies. Community colleges were organized at Palmer, Sitka, Kodiak, and Bethel and on the Kenai Peninsula.

During Dr. Wood's presidency, the Fairbanks campus gained a new residence hall complex, gymnasium, classroom buildings, a heating and power plant, a library-fine arts complex, and a campus activity center. In 1964 an area was selected on the campus' West Ridge for further expansion, primarily of research facilities. The first of these was the Alaska Water Laboratory, built and operated by the U.S. Public Health Service. A building for biological research and a new facility for the burgeoning Geophysical Institute went up on the ridge.

Wood Center as it is viewed from Yukon Drive. Photo: UAF Rasmuson Library, Photo Archives
Wood Center as it is viewed from Yukon Drive. Photo: UAF Rasmuson Library, Photo Archives

Wood served on countless national and international education boards and committees and was very active in the Alaska community. His wife, Dorothy Jane, is widely acknowledged as an important element in his success.

After his retirement from UA in 1973, he served as mayor of Fairbanks. He helped lead the drive to create Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and continued in his strong commitment to the beautification of Fairbanks through the Festival Fairbanks Foundation. His efforts included the Golden Heart Plaza and the Cushman Street Bridge of Flags, among many others. Wood remained active on the University of Alaska Foundation Board of Trustees. He was also president emeritus. Wood and his wife were both given honorary doctorates by the University of Alaska Board of Regents in 1990. William R. Wood passed away in February 2001 at the age of 94.

UA Site named after Willam Ransom Wood

Wood Center

William Ransom Wood is also mentioned in these articles:

Wood Presidency Draws to a Close

Public Service: An Added Dimension, Fairbanks Flood 1967

UA Honorary Degrees: 1989

UA President's Medal for Excellence

Howard Cutler

UA Regent: Leslie Nerland

E.F. Horton


Cashen, William R. Farthest North College President. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 1972

Cole, Terrence. The Cornerstone on College Hill. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Pres, 1994. Print. ISBN: 0912006579