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Thursday, Jul 24, 2014

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Jessica Woodruff

Jessica Woodruff, BSS ’02

Photo courtesy of: University Advancement

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Father establishes scholarship to honor alumna’s love of teaching and of Athens


While sharing a passion for a good debate might not have produced many quiet evenings together, Tom Woodruff said the thrill of the exchange was a special way he connected with his daughter, Jessica.

“She was always curious and didn’t like to lose an argument,” he said. “She used debate as a way to learn and explore ideas. We spent a lot of time arguing and trying to figure things out,” he said, laughing. “This is my best memory of her.”

Jessica died unexpectedly in 2011. She graduated in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in specialized studies in political science and women’s studies from University College. Woodruff said Jessica realized her passion for teaching later, specifically for teaching low-income, middle school girls.  

“She thought the education system, especially for middle school girls, was lacking,” Woodruff said. “She thought it failed to address the needs of girls at this age, especially girls from lower-income backgrounds.”  

To honor her love for teaching, he recently established the Jessica Woodruff Memorial Scholarship, which will support students enrolled in The Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education.

And, thanks to OHIO’s Undergraduate Scholarship Investment Program, the amount of the gift is matched $.50 on the dollar. The program dedicates $25 million to provide this match for eligible scholarship endowments beginning July 1, 2013. The goals of the program are to improve access for students who are unable to attend Ohio University without additional financial support; to increase recruitment of the best and the brightest students; to provide additional financial support that holds value over time; and to expand the impact of scholarship fundraising.

The Jessica Woodruff Memorial Scholarship supports students attending The Patton College on the Athens Campus. Woodruff said Jessica attended several universities before finding the right fit with OHIO and Athens. His gift honors his daughter’s love for Athens as well.

“I felt this gift was the right way to honor her memory because it benefits someone physically close to Athens and because it reflects her passion for teaching.”

Jessica later earned a teaching certificate from North Carolina State University and taught in a low-income middle school in North Carolina. Woodruff says while she struggled to find and apply her passions as a young adult, once she discovered teaching, she never looked back.

“She was unquestionably a feminist, always socially and politically active and was very health conscious,” he said. “She took everything she learned and everything she was and applied it to teaching low-income students. This was her contribution to the world.”

Tom Woodruff said he knows his contribution in honor of his daughter will help a number of students stay in school.

“Teaching is an important profession and it’s undervalued,” he said. “This will help future educators in a small way. That’s a good thing."