|In Memoriam: Missy Boaz Woodward '73, First Woman to Graduate from Davidson
July 28, 2010
Contact: Stacey Schmeidel, 704/894-2798
|A news photo from Davidson's 1973 Commencement shows then-Davidson President Sam Spencer recognizing Missy Woodward as the first female graduate as he presents her with her diploma.
The first woman to graduate from Davidson College, Marianna "Missy" Boaz Woodward, died unexpectedly on Sunday, July 25, while working out at a gym near her home in Fairbanks, Alaska. A pediatric physician at the Tanana Valley Clinic and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for 17 years, she was 59 years old and in good health, her husband, artist Kes Woodward '73, said.
Born in Charlottesville, Va., on Jan. 27, 1951, Missy Boaz grew up on her family's apple farm in Covesville, Va. She graduated from Lane High School in Charlottesville and enrolled at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. She then transferred to Davidson College as the first woman ever accepted as a candidate for graduation.
At the time she transferred to Davidson, women could enroll as juniors or seniors if they were married to a student or related to a faculty member. Missy Boaz and her husband, Kes Woodward, were married in 1971. They both graduated in 1973. Missy Boaz Woodward graduated cum laude, the only woman in a class of 217.
Hansford Epes, Davidson's registrar, recalls, "When Missy graduated, the Alma Mater was rewritten spontaneously by the crowd, happily replacing ‘loyal sons undaunted' with ‘loyal sons and daughters.'" He adds, "I still remember Missy coming up to me after graduation saying she hadn't expected so much of a fuss to be made, with President Sam Spencer hugging her and others cheering. She knew she was the first woman graduate-but just was uncomfortable being the center of attention."
Missy and Kes Woodward moved to Alaska in 1977, and lived in Juneau and Anchorage before settling in Fairbanks in 1981. An art major at Davidson and a full-time studio potter during her first few years in Alaska, Missy Boaz Woodward decided to become a doctor. She received her M.D. degree from the University of Washington in 1987, and completed her pediatric residency at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H. in 1991.
When she decided to begin med school, her husband noted, "She hadn't taken a science course since the ninth grade. That's just the way she was. Nothing ever stopped her."
Missy Boaz Woodward pursued a specialty in juvenile diabetes partly because she wanted to build long-term relationships with patients, Kes Woodward said.
She joined Tanana Valley Clinic in 1991. In addition to seeing pediatric patients, she served as the clinic's president and was its first medical director.
"As a physician, she was seriously devoted to hundreds of children and families," said Anna Atchison, spokesperson for the clinic.
Mishelle Nace, the clinic's pediatric director, worked with Woodward for 14 years. "She was a real advocate for both her patients and what was right for the department of pediatrics," Nace said. "She kept us on our toes, whether we wanted to be there or not."
In addition to medicine, Woodward also loved art, gardening and cooking, her husband said.
He noted, too, that although she became a doctor, she never lost her love, or her talent, for art. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner recounted a story that Kes Woodward posted a few years ago on his blog. He was struggling to create an ornament representing Alaska's Denali National Park for the White House Christmas tree. Seeing his growing frustration, his wife "took pity" and agreed to help.
"She is an extraordinary designer, craftswoman, and decorative painter, and with her efforts, the 6-inch diameter ball became an accurate rendering of the profile of Denali and the surrounding peaks," Kes Woodward wrote, "with a dramatic night sky and the aurora blazing in curtains of light above it, all the way around.
"Missy beaded not only the mountains, but the auroral curtains, staying up late into the night each night for a week, gluing on row after row of tiny seed beads. We took the best photos we could, but they don't do it justice....It is a beauty and a delight.
"We are both pleased and proud to have been able to do this for Denali National Park and Preserve. And I'm grateful to have a partner whose skills, energy, and good will can save me when I overconfidently agree to do things that I don't have the particular talents for at all."
In addition to her husband, Missy Boaz Woodward is survived by a son, Eli Woodward, and his partner, Becca Lang, of Seattle; three siblings; several nieces and nephews; and her husband's family in South Carolina.
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, July 29, at Zion Lutheran Church, 2982 Davis Road in Fairbanks. A reception will follow at the church.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be directed to YWCA Pathways for Women, 6027 208th St. SW, Lynwood, WA 98036.
Note: Some of the information in this story was previously published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.