November 24, 2022
R. Craig Wood, Professor Emeritus of education finance and law at the University of Florida, passed away at age 74 on November 24, 2022. He was a long-time member, contributor, past president of the Education Law Association, and recipient of the 2022 McGhehey Award.
The Durham, NC, native was born February 15, 1948, to Leon and Virginia Wood. Before graduating from Jordan High School, Craig achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the first of a lifelong list of notable accomplishments. After high school he attended Southwood Junior College before graduating Cum Laude from Campbell University in 1970.
As a new high school social studies teacher, Craig assumed the added duty of graduate work at Virginia Tech, specializing in education finance. By 1977 he had earned a doctorate, after which the School District of River Falls, WI, employed him as Business Manager and then Assistant Superintendent for Finance. Following WI, he again was hired as Assistant Superintendent for Finance for the Darien, CT Public Schools.
In 1980 Craig was hired as an assistant professor, later promoted to associate professor, in the School of Education at Purdue University. He remained at Purdue until 1989, when he left to assume a full professorship and department chair in the University of Florida College of Education serving with distinction until retirement in January 2022.
In addition to teaching higher education law, public school finance, and public-school law courses at the graduate level, Craig served as Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and was founding co-director of both the University Council for Educational Administration and the University of Florida’s Center for Education Finance. The University of Florida honored him with the B.O. Smith Research Professorship in 2002 and the Doctoral Dissertation Advisor/Mentoring Award in 2016.
Former students recall Craig as a superb teacher, mentor, and friend. He guided 67 of his students to doctoral degrees, several of whom have won national recognition. Today, those protégé s dominate education finance at American universities. Not content to proffer direction and advice to his students, Professor Wood also extended financial support—directly, sometimes indirectly—from his personal funds. His legacy is, and will be, the research and teaching of the students and colleagues he inspired and collaborated with over the years.
In addition to accolades garnered as a teacher and mentor, Craig was a prolific scholar and world class researcher. He authored more than 250 book chapters, fifty technical reports, and countless articles. His two books, Money & Schools and Education Finance Law, are the definitive works in the field. He co-authored Funding Public Schools in the United States & Indian Country, which is the key reference book for this subject. He spread his subject-matter expertise through lectures on three continents and most American states. He served as Finance Law Editor for the Journal of Education Finance and on the Editorial Advisory Committee of the Education Law Reporter.
Although Craig was not an attorney, he shaped the pertinent laws far more than most legal professionals. He regularly testified as an expert witness in cases involving school finance, charter school funding, sexual harassment, age discrimination, Title IX, higher education student dismissals, and other topics involving K-12 and higher education. He staunchly believed elected political entities, not the courts, should decide questions regarding expenditures for education. He believed the State Education Clauses, components of every state constitution, are statements of aspiration rather than mandates for legislative action.
Over a career spanning nearly half a century, Craig served as Executive Director of the Association of Education Finance & Policy and was president of three national academic organizations—the American Education Finance & Policy Association, the National Education Finance Academy, and the Education Law Association. He received the lifetime achievement awards from those three organizations as well as the University Council for Education Administration. The National Education Finance Academy, which he founded in 2011, named its lifetime achievement award after him 2022.
In addition to his professional life Craig was a sports car enthusiast, a most decent power boater, a 32d Degree Mason, a car collector and aficionado, a serious follower of his favorite sports, and a devoted shepherd of his beloved golden retrievers. Most important, he found time to spend with his life’s love, wife Judith, whom he married in 1977.
Professor Wood is survived by his wife Judith, his golden retriever Bodie, several nieces and nephews, several close in-laws, and innumerable friends, colleagues, and former students. Those who wish to honor him may contribute in his name to the Masonic Lodge, River Falls Lodge# 109 AF & AM, 122 East Walnut Street, River Falls, WI 54022; any Golden Retriever rescue group; Virginia Tech School of Education, Office of University Development 0336, Blacksburg, VA 24061; or the University of Florida College of Education, PO Box 117042, Gainesville, FL 32611.
Poet HW Longfellow might have been thinking of Craig when he wrote of the rare person who will “leave his footprint in the sands of time.” Craig assuredly has met the standard.
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