Leaving a Legacy | Teachers College Columbia University

Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Leaving a Legacy

Alumnus Ben D. Wood was a pioneer in learning technologies and a fervent philanthropist whose legacy lives on at TC
It began with a typewriter.
In a 1931 study, Ben D. Wood, a Teachers College alumnus and pioneer in the field of learning technologies and testing, showed that using typewriters encouraged more and higher-quality writing and better cooperation in the classroom.
Years later, the connection drew the interest of IBM, where the study formed the basis of the company’s Writing to Read program, developed by one of Wood’s associates. Wood, Professor of Collegiate Educational Research at Columbia University, was also a key figure in the proliferation of standardized tests and consulted on the development of the first commercial test scoring machine, the IBM 805. He would go on to serve as a longtime consultant to IBM founder Thomas J. Watson.
Wood’s lifework was research; he wanted others to be able to do the same. Thanks to savvy, early investment in IBM, Wood established endowment funds at TC. In 1972, he set up the Elbenwood Fund for Educational Research of Young Children, followed by the Institute for Learning Technologies Fund in 1986. In 1989, three years after her husband’s death at 91, Grace Turner Wood established the Ben D. Wood & Grace Turner Wood Fellowship Fund, through which 26 doctoral students have received three years of full tuition and a stipend.
“The fellowship gives students the time they need to do really good work,” said John Black, the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Telecommunications and Education and Director of Wood’s Institute for Learning Technologies, which oversees the fellows program. “Supporting yourself siphons time and energy that could be devoted to your research.”
Wood was awarded the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service in 1969. Columbia University Professor Emeritus George C. Thompson, who became friends with his colleague after retirement, says that Wood, a native Texan, had a mind that was rarely at rest: “He was a self-made man and a very kind person.”
Substantial gifts such as the endowed funds—made possible by the generosity and foresight of Ben Wood—make an enormous impact at the College. His scholarships have enhanced TC’s ability to attract the best students and to keep them, and have given dozens of students the gift of graduating debt-free.
To learn more about leaving a legacy at TC, go to www.tc.edu/supporttc2/PlannedGiving.htm.

Published Friday, Sep. 4, 2009