By Elisse Schaaf
It is rare to find someone who loves their job as much as Jack Dudley, especially when that job involves wearing many different hats. Now he’s hanging up those various hats after 47 years at William Woods University.
“For Jack, William Woods is more than a place to work, it is home. He truly cares about the university and, more importantly, he cares about the students here at William Woods,” Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, WWU president, said. “He has been an inspiration to countless people.”
After graduating from the University of Missouri in 1964 with both B.S. and M.A. degrees in geography, Dudley began his career at William Woods as the assistant to the academic dean and as an instructor of geosciences. He was only 23.
“When I first started teaching, there were only 230 or so students on campus. Everything was in the Academic Building. The chapel and the dorms by Junior Lake had not even been built yet,” says Dudley. “Girls had to sign out of their dorm; everyone ate dinner together as a family on Sunday evenings.”
He added, “Things have definitely changed.”
Yes, things certainly have changed, but Dudley has remained a constant force at William Woods for 47 years.
In 1970, when he returned to William Woods after working on his Ph.D., Dudley became the director of financial aid and started the first Financial Aid office.
Besides being a professor and the director of financial aid, Dudley has been the director of academic support (1986-1990), director of residential life (1983-1985), and director of experimental studies (1970-1986). In addition, he has served as the advisor to Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike) social fraternity.
He has taught geography, human sexuality, methods of teaching social studies in secondary school, earth science, and U.S. history.
Dudley has been the recipient of the Louis D. Beaumont Dad’s Distinguished Professor Award three times—in 1977, 1984 and 2000. He has been the only WWU teacher to receive the award in three separate decades.
“Winning this award means a lot because it is the students who select the recipient,” Dudley said.
Needless to say, Dudley has had quite an influence on campus. He is known for his laid-back attitude, sense of humor and his easy-going teaching style, which many students find refreshing.
“He kept class interesting and had great insight,” says Cassie Strope, a sophomore. “We also had a lot of fun on the field trips for lab.”
Dudley says, “Teaching is a way not only to expand student horizons, but to expand your own. I never get old working with students.”
While William Woods will surely miss Dudley’s presence, he is looking forward to his retirement. He plans to work on a reflective sign he developed for persons in wheelchairs, and has a few fire department assignments lined up.
Dudley has been a firefighter since 2001. He is certified to teach several courses. He also serves as fireground safety for the county fire departments.
“I tell my students to live by the same motto I do,” he says, “‘There is no limit to what you can accomplish, as long as you don’t need credit for it.’”
After working at William Woods for 47 years, Jack Dudley is retiring this month.
Jack Dudley teaching a class in 2001.
Jack Dudley as he appeared in the 1965 William Woods yearbook.