One of us: Dr. Phil Wood reflects on 30 years at Mac

He has seen chickens scrambling across the JHE lobby, attended twenty-nine out of thirty Welcome Week concerts and has his own soul-rock and basketball radio show on CFMU. In his three decades at McMaster, Dr. Phil Wood has seen it all.

Dr. Wood celebrated his 30-year teaching anniversary on Jan. 2 this year, having arrived at McMaster in 1983. On Jan. 6, the SRA passed a motion to give Dr. Wood honorary MSU membership.

John McGowan, General Manager of the MSU, stated how rare a distinction this is; Dr. Wood one of only 16 honourary members of the students union since 1965.

Dr. Wood, who is revered in McMaster’s Engineering department, came from a teaching post at Michigan State University to join McMaster’s Chemical Engineering Department.

At the start of his career as a professor, Dr. Wood maintained a fine balance to ensure he was both a strong teacher and researcher. Along the way he was mentored by noteworthy professors, such as Don Woods, and went onto mentor generations of students, administrators and faculty members.

Dr. Wood first interacted with students teaching in Chemical Engineering, then later as Associate Dean of Engineering and in his current role as Associate Vice-President of Student Affairs.

Upon receiving a 3M Teaching Fellowship Award, Dr. Wood remarked that the key to his success was continuously “turning the crank,” churning out research while ensuring student success in the classroom.

Across the board, students and staff have whole-heartedly agreed: Phil Wood genuinely cares about students and the McMaster experience.

Elizabeth Edwards, Director of BioZone and Professor in Chemical Engineering at University of Toronto, recalled how effectively Dr. Wood engaged students in class.

“He once came into a class with a bucket of water and a power drill. The class burst into laughter as he proceeded to drill holes in the bucket and the water peed out the side in different arcs, which effectively showed the function of pressure. I co-taught with Dr. Wood when I first started and I am so grateful to have learned from him.”

Anecdotes from Dr. Wood’s colleagues and students are ripe with examples of his hardworking spirit, his indelible commitment to student success and his creative methods of engagement.

Don Woods, Professor Emeritus at McMaster, recounted how Dr. Wood used beer-cooling experiments in a heat-transfer course and looked at why golf balls are dimpled in a fluid mechanics course.

Former MSU President Vishal Tiwari (2009-10) jokingly recounted the easygoing nature of his relationship with Dr. Wood. “We had this saying, that ‘We’re Rolling with Big Wood,’ he said.”

“Dr. Wood has a genuine interest in students. Dropping by Union Market regularly to get coffee is just one example of small consistent gesture that makes him a quick friend to any McMaster student.”

When The Silhouette sat down with Dr. Wood, it was clear he, too, would miss the student-centred nature of his job.

While his career took off in the Faculty of Engineering, he quickly assumed more leadership roles at the departmental and administrative level. But his memories of these positions and the campus as a whole reflect a deeper evolution he has witnessed.

Wood proudly noted how in the last several years he has witnessed the growth of school spirit, partly due to the Vanier Cup win, and partly as a result of several years of individuals building the “Think Maroon” campaign.

As his term concludes on June 30, there are many things students may remember about him. Perhaps it will be hearing his voice over the airwaves on his radio show, “Soul in the Hole,” or his contributing music reviews for the Sil’s ANDY section.

“I’ll miss being somebody that students want to engage with,” he said. “I’ll still be the number-one fan out at the games and on campus … but I’ll miss having a chance to make a difference.”

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