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Bill Wood, Founding Director of U.Va.’s Sorensen Institute, Dies at 69
November 18, 2012 | Marian Anderfuren
William H. Wood, the former newspaperman who became founding director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, died Nov. 16 at home. He was 69.
The cause was complications of Alzheimer's. Wood died only weeks after he and his wife Carol had moved to Birmingham, Ala., to be near their son and his family.
Wood launched the institute, an educational and training organization for Virginia's emerging political leaders, at U.Va. in 1993. Today, more than 1,000 Virginians have graduated from the Sorensen Institute's programs. Many of the graduates, who are of all political stripes, hold elected and appointed office in Virginia, from school boards to the state legislature.
Bob Gibson, who now directs the Sorensen, said he considers Wood his role model. "Bill could listen to anyone on any side of an issue and find points of agreement or common interest with them," he said. "Behind his mild manner lurked a wonderful sense of humor that could catch people by surprise because he could deliver any message with perfect timing and a deadpan delivery."
Wood stepped down as executive director of Sorensen in 2005, and was recognized with a joint resolution by the General Assembly, commending him for his long career in journalism and his leadership of the institute. He continued to work part time until 2007 as editor of the Virginia Newsletter and director of the publications division of the University's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
A well-known and widely respected journalist, Wood had spent 26 years in the newspaper business before coming to the University - the last 10 as editorial-page editor of The Virginian-Pilot. As a reporter and editor, he covered the Virginia General Assembly for two decades.
John O. Wynne of Virginia Beach, former CEO of Landmark Communications, which owned The Pilot, and former rector of the University, said Wood's editorial philosophy was a good fit with that of Landmark Chairman Frank Batten Sr. and publisher Perry Morgan.
"All of them hated editorial pages that stuck to ideologies - they were always predictable," he said. "They thought newspapers had to do fresh thinking about issues and really inform readers. Bill absolutely did that."
Like Morgan and Batten, Wood worked hard to make sure he was being fair, Wynne said.
Wood began his interest in politics when, as a 14-year-old in Luray, Va., he handed out campaign literature for the successful 1957 campaign of Gov. J. Lindsay Almond. After graduating from Duke University, where he was an editor at the student newspaper, he went to work at the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg.
In 1970, Wood joined The Ledger-Star in Norfolk and for the next 13 years covered police, courts, city councils and the General Assembly and served a stint as sports editor. In 1981, the Ledger merged with The Virginian-Pilot and Wood became the newspapers' second ombudsman. In 1983, he was named editorial page editor.
Gerald L. Baliles, former Virginia governor who now directs U.Va.'s Miller Center, knew Wood from his days in the General Assembly. He said Wood personified civility, sought to elevate and educate, and wrote with clarity and conciseness.
"He was courteous to all, even those with whom he shared a different opinion," Baliles said. "I valued his friendship and respected his judgment." He noted, with a smile in his voice, "I still treasure his endorsement when I ran for attorney general."
Wood, a pitcher for the Duke baseball team, loved the game and especially the Dodgers, starting when they were still in Brooklyn. He played a mean game of tennis, running opponents all over the court, and was fond of beach music, doo-wop and dancing.
In 2005, Wood, then 62, received a diagnosis of a type of dementia that took aim at his speaking, reading and writing abilities. As the old Bill began to fall away, his core remained - his sweetness, his laughter, and his jitterbug wiggle.
Wood is survived by his wife; their son, Zachary Mather, and daughter-in-law, Kate Mather; three grandchildren, Will, Julia and Griffin of Birmingham; and his sister, Sally Heath, of Charlottesville.
A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 2 p.m. in the University of Virginia chapel. It will be followed by a reception at Carr's Hill.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent in Wood's name to the Sorensen Institute, P.O. Box 400206, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4206.
Published on UVAToday on Nov. 18, 2012.
It is with a heavy heart and tears that we share the message that our dear friend and former Sorensen executive director Bill Wood passed away early this morning.
Immediate arrangements will occur in Birmingham, but there will be a service, and burial, at a later time in Charlottesville.
Through the help of Sorensen alumni and friends, we are helping a Virginia community center.
Thank you so much for your support thus far! Today we are delivering 495 donated items (books, magazines, games, jig saw puzzles and more) to the Harvey Hall Community Center. The Harvey Hall Community Center in Arlington, Va. is one of seven community centers in Arlington and one in Baltimore that works with more than 2,000 children and adults. Services include a wide variety of opportunities, from after-school programs to senior activities, to help improve residents lives. Harvey Hall also provides a teen tutoring and study hall, a project discovery summer camp and programs for seniors such as field trips to cultural sites and on-site luncheons that focus on health oriented topics.
We will continue to collect books the rest of this calendar year. If you have questions or would like to donate items, please contact Tracy Tanner Bond, Alumni Coordinator for Volunteer Events at (434) 982-4943.
We are pleased to announce that Sean T. O’Brien, former Executive Director of the Sorensen Institute, has been promoted to the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Montpelier Foundation. In this new position, Sean will address the needs of the growing organization as they implement their new strategic plan and build on the achievements of the last decade.
Sean has served as the Executive Director of the Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier for the past 3-1/2 years. Sean holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Sean, his wife Anne and their 2 children live in Charlottesville.
Political Leaders Program Class of 2009 alumnus Art Major currently serves as President of GearClean, Inc. This past week, GearClean was recognized by Governor Bob McDonnell as a recipient of one of the 2011 Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards. GearClean, headquartered in Winchester, was recognized in the Environmental Project Small Business category for their work in the Deepwater Horizon response. GearClean introduced a revolutionary decontamination process to help clean contaminated vessels. During the project, GearClean was able to remove contaminates from vessels without the use of solvents and cleaners and without producing secondary waste.
The Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards recognize significant contributions of environmental and conservation leaders in three categories: environmental projects, environmental programs and land conservation. They can be awarded to businesses and industrial facilities, not-for-profit organizations, government agencies and individuals. Additional information on the Governor's Environmental Excellence Awards is available here. Sorensen congratulates Art and GearClean!
Joe Walton, a member of the Political Leaders Program Class of 2008, has been elected Chairman of the Powhatan Board of Supervisors by his colleagues on the board. Walton was nominated to the position by Supervisor Robert Cosby and was elected in a 3-1 vote and abstained from voting on his own nomination. Walton has served as the board's Vice Chairman during 2010 and will succeed Cosby; who served as Board Chairman for 30 years.
For more information, please read the article posted on Powhatan Today.
Chris Fairchild (PLP 2008), Chairman of the Sorensen Institute's Charlottesville Regional Alumni Chapter, has been named to the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors to fill the vacant Rivanna District seat. Elected unanimously, Fairchild will serve out the remainder of the term until December 2011.
Fairchild was nominated by Supervisor Joe Chesser. When asked why he wanted the postition, he stated, “I’m here because I care a great deal about our county.” In December 2010, the Rivanna Disctict seat was left vacant by Gene Ott. The Board of Supervisors voted yesterday, 5-0, to seat him. His first meeting will be Feb. 2 at 2:00 p.m.
Youth Program Coordinator
The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership is seeking applicants to be Youth Program Coordinators during the summer of 2011 for its College Leaders Program and High School Leaders Program.
Both programs are residential at the University of Virginia. The College Leaders Program runs for four weeks from May 28th to June 25th; the High School Leaders Program runs from July 9th to July 23rd.
Desirable Qualifications are: effective time management skills; a high degree of organization; the ability to work with high school and college students in a residential and classroom setting; knowledge of Virginia government and politics; significant peer leadership experience; experience working in a peer-to-peer counseling setting; strong written and oral communication skills; and excellent human relations skills. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree by the program start date.
The regular positions will run from May 24th to July 24th. During the program, Youth Program Coordinators will be required to live in residence with the students every night and work on average 6 days a week, with some vacation time between the two programs. There will be some limited work requirements for recruitment and review of applications starting in Mid-January 2011. Program Coordinators will receive room and board with the students during the programs in addition to a $3,250 stipend.
Applicants should include a current resume and relevant references, in addition to a brief letter explaining why the applicant is interested in the position. Letters of recommendation are welcome, but not required.
Please submit all materials to Ben Heath, Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, P.O. Box 400206, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904 or by email to email@example.com.
Questions can be directed to Ben Heath, Manager of Youth Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 434-243-2844. Applications must be submitted by Monday, January 3, 2011 for consideration. Applicants will be contacted to arrange an interview.
JOB DESCRIPTION - YOUTH PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Compensation: $3,250 plus room and board during the programs
A. The full time position runs from May 24th through July 24th.
B. Coordinators must be in residence at the University of Virginia at all times when students are in the dorms; with one day off each week.
C. Assist in the daily operations of the programs - supervise students during the day, be on call certain evenings to assist students, etc.
D. Travel with the programs on all field trips.
E. Advise students in preparation of their culminating project as outlined in program materials. Oversee at least one student research group.
F. Provide administrative support during the program - help with coordination of activities, contact with speakers, development of culminating project groups, evening activities, etc.
G. Coordinate social events for the students in the programs.
H. Provide reasonable assistance to the Sorensen Institute in the recruitment and selection of program participants.
I. Assist in evaluating students completing the CLP or HSLP for academic credit.
J. Other tasks necessary for the operation of the programs as requested by the Sorensen Institute's staff.
The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia extends our condolences, prayers and best wishes to Ruth Sorensen Singer and Adam Sorensen and their families at the loss of Ted Sorensen, Ruth's brother and Adam's uncle. Ruth Sorensen Singer is a former board member and Adam is a current member of the Sorensen Institute's Statewide Advisory Board.
Ted Sorensen, the brother of the late Tom Sorensen, after whom the Sorensen Institute is named, was an inspiring author, speechwriter and adviser to President John F. Kennedy. Ted Sorensen was well known for his wit and wisdom and was a great supporter of the institute bearing his brother's name.
The 2008 public television documentary "Across the Aisle" will be broadcast on Thursday, Sept. 16th at 9:00pm on WCVE and WHTJ public television stations in Richmond and Charlottesville and again on Tuesday, Sept. 21st at 9:00pm on WCVE Richmond. The documentary follows the Sorensen Institute's Political Leaders Program Class of 2007 during its 10-month program across Virginia. The broadcast comes as the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership is recruiting applicants for the 2011 Political Leaders Program Class as well as the 2011 Candidate Training Program. Applications for both programs are being accepted at the Sorensen Institute's website until 5:00pm on Nov. 8th. For more information, visit www.sorenseninstitute.org.
The documentary was produced courtesy of a $100,000 gift from Albemarle County resident Fred Scott. Asked about the upcoming broadcast, Scott said, "Combine the best of Public Television leadership and producer/directorship skills with great academic leadership and a documentary is born. John Casteen, former President of UVA, took only a few minutes to understand and approve our Charlottesville PBS station manager's idea to produce "Across The Aisle," the story of a year-long Sorensen class. Editorial restrictions? None. We have been impressed by producer Paul Roberts' work and we trust our University's reputation to him." Scott added, "For me, watching a gem of an idea...one that began in a quiet conversation on my front porch...develop into a full blown documentary that 'gets it right' about Sorensen, has been a joyous journey."