Wood, Robert C(oldwell) 1923–2005

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Wood, Robert C(oldwell) 1923–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born September 16, 1923, in St. Louis, MO; died of stomach cancer April 1, 2005, in Boston, MA. College president, political consultant, educator, and author. Wood, a former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and president of the University of Massachusetts at Boston, was an expert on education, housing, and urban and suburban development. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II and seeing action at the Battle of the Bulge, he completed his undergraduate degree at Princeton University in 1946. He then attended Harvard University, where he earned two master's degrees and, in 1950, a Ph.D. in government and political economy. During the early 1950s, he worked for the federal Bureau of the Budget in Washington, DC. He taught at Harvard for three years before joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1957. At MIT he became a professor of political science in 1962 and headed that department in the late 1960s. By the 1960s Wood had become a respected expert on education and housing, and he was sought after by then-Senator John F. Kennedy to advise the future president on housing and urban policies. Later, during the Johnson administration, Wood was made undersecretary for the office of Housing and Urband Development (HUD), a new federal department Wood helped raise to cabinet-level importance, and from 1968 to 1969 he served as HUD's secretary. While with HUD, he played key roles in funneling federal monies toward inner-city development and passing the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Long before the problems of suburban sprawl routinely made the news, Wood was cognizant of the many inherent difficulties the suburbanization of America posed. His first book, Suburbia: Its People and Their Politics (1959), is a detailed critique of suburbia. One important factor in urban and suburban growth is transportation, and Wood was involved in this area, as well, as chair of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from 1969 to 1970. Returning to academia after leaving HUD, he was elected president of the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1970, serving until 1977 and expanding the Boston campus into a major academic hub. He then accepted the job of superintendent of Boston Public Schools, but his time there was short-lived and controversial because many city administrators opposed his desegregation efforts and staffing choices. Returning to the University of Massachusetts as a professor of political science and director of urban studies, he made one more major career move in 1983. He joined the Wesleyan University faculty as Henry Luce Professor of Democratic Institutions and the Social Order and was also John E. Andrus Professor of Government from 1992 to 1993. Wood retired as Luce Professor Emeritus in 1993. Among his other publications are Politics and Government in the United States (1965), Whatever Possessed the President?: Academic Experts and Presidential Policy, 1960–1988 (1993), Turnabout Time: Public Higher Education in the Commonwealth (1995), and Eastward Ho: Options for Metropolitan Boston (1997).



New York Times, April 5, 2005, p. C21.

Washington Post, April 3, 2005, p. C8.