In Memoriam: Distinguished Professor Richard D. Woods (1935-2021)

4th September 1935 - 27 January 2021

Dear Colleagues,

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Professor Dick Woods passed away on January 27, 2021 with his family by his side.   

Richard D. Woods was born September 4, 1935 to Andrew and Beryl (Evens) Woods in Lansing, Michigan. He graduated from Sexton High School in Lansing in 1953, obtained a BS in Civil Engineering in 1957, MS in Civil Engineering in 1962 from Notre Dame University. From September 1957 through August 1960 he served in the United States Marine Corps as an engineering officer.  In 1967 he received his Ph.D in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan and went on to become a member of the University of Michigan faculty for over 35 years.

Before beginning his career at the University of Michigan, Professor Woods served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, conducted research at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory at Kirkland Air Force Base, and taught at Michigan Technological University in Houghton. Professor Woods joined the University of Michigan faculty as an Assistant Professor in 1967 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1971 and Professor in 1976.  He served as the Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from 1994 to 2001.  After formal “retirement” from the University of Michigan, Professor Woods taught at Notre Dame University one semester each year for nearly a decade. Reestablishing himself in Ann Arbor, Professor Woods once again taught graduate classes and advised PhD students at the University of  Michigan throughout the 2010’s. His geotechnical engineering consulting efforts would continue through 2020.

Prof. Woods is best known for his pioneering research in soil dynamics, foundation engineering, and engineering geophysics.  He authored over 80-refereed publications and chaired 21 Ph.D. theses.  Among Professor Woods' numerous awards are the Collingwood Prize from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Terzaghi Lectureship from the ASCE Geotechnical Engineering Division. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2003.  

In addition to being a giant in our field, Professor Woods was an extremely gracious and kind colleague and mentor who loved the University of Michigan and his friends and collaborators throughout the world. He was a driving force in the ASCE Geo-Institute and in USUCGER. Dick will be dearly missed. 

Dick was preceded in death by his wife of 55 years, Dixie L. (Davis) Woods, in 2012 and his daughter Kathleen (Woods) Laird in 1981. He is survived by his daughters, Cecilia Woods of Dexter and Karen Woods Bochenek (Andrew) of Royal Oak, grandson Trevor Laird (Nina) of Glasgow, Scotland, granddaughters Jane Woods (Ross) of Cincinnati, Ohio, Audi Woods of Ypsilanti , Sarina (Parks) Pankey (Kevin) of Belleville, Tori Parks of Ypsilanti, great granddaughters Daisha Wilson, Siobhan Woods, Alanna Armstrong, Hella Woods, and great grandsons Zyhare Scott, and Kevin Pankey jr.

Rest in peace Professor Woods.

The following obituary is distributed through the United States Universities Council on Geotechnical Education and Research (USUCGER) by Prof. Roman Hryciw of the University of Michigan.