Main Content

ACU remembers: Robert R. Woodward

Robert R. Woodward (left) and his good friend, Dr. John C. Stevens, who was ACU’s chancellor emeritus in early 1998 when this photograph was taken at Woodward’s home in Kerrville.
When Abilene Christian University leaders were planning the $100 million “To Lead and To Serve” campaign in the late 1990s, they had no idea the kindness one of its longtime friends was about to bestow on them.
Unbeknownst to them, Robert R. “Bob” Woodward – who lived in Kerrville, Texas, with his wife, Mary – had been helping facilitate an estate gift of his late mother, Grace Woodward, that would contribute $26.5 million to ACU’s College of Biblical Studies, and serve as the cornerstone of the university’s campaign. When “To Lead and To Serve” was publicly announced in February 2008, so was the Grace L. Woodward Memorial Endowment Trust for ACU.
ACU remembers Bob’s life-changing legacy today: he died Aug. 31 at age 83, and his memorial service was this morning in Kerrville.
I traveled to his home early in 1998 with then-chancellor emeritus Dr. John C. Stevens (’38) to interview Woodward. Stevens was Bob’s longtime friend, and ACU’s unofficial historian-in-residence.  Bob told his life story and spoke of the motivation behind his family’s confidence in ACU as a place to prepare young men and women for ministry. For 30 years, he and his mother had quietly watched the success of the Harley Woodward Foundation for Christian Education, a fund started at ACU by his late grandmother, Bessie Woodward. The family was impressed that no ACU student had ever defaulted on a loan from this fund for three decades.
Woodward loved the church, and for generations his family had anonymously supported congregations and children’s homes, among other philanthropic interests. He compared the good he anticipated from his mother’s gift to ACU to the rings that grow and widen when a pebble is tossed into a placid pool.
“It gives me great comfort that this trust fund will be sending those rings out to the end of time, as far as I can see,” he said. “When you look at it in that aspect – at how much good will comes from this one single thing – then my life has been well spent.”
In 2005, ACU dedicated Jacob’s Dream, a dramatic outdoor sculpture site on its campus by art and design department chair Jack Maxwell, to honor the Woodward family gift.
Read more here about this extraordinarily generous Christian scholar, businessman and benefactor to countless “good works” as he might have described them.
Watch “The Making of Jacob’s Dream,” the Emmy-nominated and Telly Award-winning documentary about the piece of art that honors the Woodwards, here.