Pinch-Hitting for the President: Jim Wood '70

Photography by Gabrielle Diaz '11

Jim Wood '70.

On April 23, Jim Wood '70, an attorney at Reed Smith in Oakland and a 2007 Alumni Award winner, filled in for Brother Ronald Gallagher as College president. He later reflected on the day and his student years.

Why were you president for a day?

I blame (former Warriors announcer and SMC regent) Dick Callahan — he and Brother Ron were the auctioneers for “President for a Day” at last year's President's Club Dinner. When you combine Dick's very obvious talent as an auctioneer with his love for the College, it's hard to keep your wallet in your pocket.

Your family has a long history with SMC.

My dad is a graduate ('46); a few years ago he was named Alumnus of the Year. My brothers, Dennis '71 and Matt '78, are graduates and rowed in crew.

What's your relationship with Brother Ron like?

He and I were SMC students together and during that time became very good friends. I have watched Ron's love of the College grow over the years, as well as his passion about being a religious person, a teacher, providing service to those who are in greatest need, his selflessness. Because of these qualities, I asked him to be the godfather of my youngest, Ruth.

What's your proudest accomplishment as ASSMC president in 69–70?

In 1968, a number of us inspired and influenced by the thinking of ASSMC President Dan Whitehurst '69 began to take a hard look at life at the College. He came up with the clever acronym “SPAN” (Students for Progressive Action Now). As with most things in life, this began with food. In a word, the food in the cafeteria “stunk.”

This quickly grew to taking a hard look — through numerous meetings and writings within the College community — at such issues as requirements (there was very little flexibility in deciding what classes to take), coeducation, the role of athletics on the campus and more. As a result of this process, the last all-male class to graduate from the College was in 1970. Jan Term was created, as was the Collegiate Seminar.

In April, you visited a class. What's different than when you were a student?

What a change 30-plus years makes! When we were called upon to do a Euclidean proof in 1966, you could slice the anxiety with a knife. In the class I visited, the students were partners. They became the tutors if the student presenting the proof needed help — they were not sitting by waiting to see if the student got it wrong.

Were you tempted to change things during your brief presidency?

I can't tell you how many calls and e-mails I got — they ranged from having a kegger in the grove (do they still do those?) to having every “C” in Seminar morphed into an “A.”

What did you take away from the President for a Day Experience?

It showed me that a primary theme of campus life is service for others. The Brothers, faculty and staff have always impressed me with their absolute commitment to serving the students, which really is the message of Saint John Baptist de La Salle. From the day's experience, I see that Brother Ron has created an environment where this can be seen and felt throughout the entire community.

If Brother Ron's ever in a pinch, can you handle the presidency full-time?

Only if I get to wear the formal academic robes!