Faculty Tribute to Dr. Don Woodland
The Graduate School of Banking at LSU has been in existence since 1950 and is the largest venue for banker education. Dr. Don Woodland has been at the helm of this prestigious program for over half a century. Similar to the majestic clock tower and the live oak trees on the LSU campus, Dr. Woodland has become an institution and a legend that will stand the test of time.
Dr. Woodland’s leadership guided the school through seven economic cycles and recessions, three wars, the 9/11 tragedy, and major hurricanes. Both deregulation and regulation of banking have occurred on his watch. Out of the starting blocks in 1967, there were approximately 13,000 banks in the U.S.A., and this number is now down to just under 6,000. The Dow was approximately 800 points at the beginning of his tenure and is now above 25,000 points. His principle-based leadership and direction guided over 12,000 students and 500 faculty on a rich education journey.
The evolution from pencil and paper and blackboards with chalk to the mainframe computer, then on to personal computers and email, and finally to iPads and everything mobile has resulted in change as the mode of operation for this stellar educational experience. During Dr. Woodland’s tenure, chartered flights by Delta Air Lines transported students housed in those infamous dorms on campus. Students attended classes in suits and formal dress. A pleasant day at Pleasant Hall and the faculty lounge was a commonplace occurrence. The woman who worked early security at the front desk reported seeing Dr. Woodland regularly at 4:30 AM to prepare for another day. Fast-forward to student apartments and the faculty housing at Lod Cook, which seems like heaven in comparison to the early days.
During Dr. Woodland’s tenure were occasional challenges, such as the incident with expelled students and flying ice, Mike Woody’s barking dog, the signing of diplomas, and the famous memo to the faculty indulging in souvenir collection during the last days in Pleasant Hall. In each of these situations, Dr. Woodland handled their every detail with grace and presence.
Dr. Woodland lives the attributes of a great leader. His vision of engaging the Mexican bankers and working with other graduate schools to improve Bank Sim and the overall curriculum are examples of his steadfast leadership. With an exceptional eye for talent, he selected student workers, staff, and faculty to develop a team and culture capable of delivering and outstanding learning opportunity. His famous line, “We are going in another direction,” was a signal that he meant to raise the standards for everyone, regardless of rank or status.
Of special note is Dr. Woodland’s personal engagement and sincerity in relations with people from all stations of life. He provided direction and encouragement often simultaneously. His down-to-earth humility; the sparkle in his eyes; and the energy in his face when he discusses his family, farm, longhorn steer named Freckles, or John Deere tractor are all characteristics of a man who remembers his beginnings and realizes his priorities.
Dr. Woodland, you are an inspiration to the student workers, staff, students, faculty, and members of the banking community. We thank you for your leadership in our educational journey of life.