About Menu ▾


Historical Perspective

William Woods University has a long and fascinating history originating in the aftermath of the American Civil War. First known as the Female Orphan School, the institution that is now William Woods University was founded in 1870 in Camden Point, Missouri in response to the needs of female children orphaned during the war.

During the late nineteenth century, the institution moved to Fulton, Missouri, and expanded its elementary and secondary programs to accommodate young women who aspired to become teachers. Known briefly at the beginning of the twentieth century as Daughters College, the institution changed its name to William Woods College to honor a major benefactor and began offering a two-year college program. In 1962, anticipating dramatic changes in the role of American women in the labor force, William Woods became a four-year college.

Expanding its mission to address the need for graduate and adult-oriented programs, the institution became known as William Woods University in 1993 and began offering graduate degrees and admitting men as well as women into all of its programs.

An independent institution, chartered by the State of Missouri, governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees, and in an ongoing covenant relationship with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), William Woods University remains committed to serving the public good by helping students link intellectual development with the responsibilities of citizenship and professional life.

Dr. William Stone Woods - Namesake of the University

Recent History (1993 to Present)


  • Gayle Lampe, professor emeritus of equestrian studies, is named an Icon of Education by Ingram's, Kansas City's business magazine.
  • Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum campaigns at WWU.
  • Made up of students, faculty/staff and community members, the WWU Parliament Pep Band makes its debut at basketball games. A parliament is a group of owls, tying the band's name to the school's mascot.
  • Students broaden experiences with a Woods Around the World trip to France, visiting the site of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as well as art museums and historical sites.
  • One of the most prolific actors of his generation, Val Kilmer, spends a week at WWU, performing his play, "Citizen Twain," visiting various groups and speaking at commencement; Kilmer receives honorary doctorate degree from WWU.
  • The United States Saddle Seat World Cup Selection Trials are held at WWU, with riders vying for an opportunity to represent their country in the 2012 Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup in Parys, South Africa, in December.
  • The social work department institutes a new award to honor a woman who helped establish the social work program at WWU-the Jane Bierdeman-Fike Inspiration Award. The inaugural award is presented to Harriet Yelon, a prominent member of the campus community for three decades.
  • Ken Lyle, chief financial officer for Fulton State Hospital and an adjunct faculty member at William Woods University, is the first recipient of the newly created Graduate College Distinguished Professor Award.
  • Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, president of William Woods University for the past 22 years, is named a Woman of Achievement by the Zonta Club of Jefferson City. The award was presented at the 13th annual Yellow Rose Luncheon, with about 700 people in attendance. Proceeds from the event subsidize Zonta's Second Chance Scholarship Fund for women.
  • The American Horse Publications (AHP) Association presents the 2012 AHP Student Award to Dani Moritz, a senior from Algonquin, Ill., for her talent in journalism and love for horses.


  • The "Mad Hungarian," Al Hrabosky, former St. Louis Cardinal and current color commentator, speaks on campus as part of the President's Concert and Lecture Series.
  • Dr. Mary Spratt, Cox Distinguished Professor in Science, is named an Icon of Education by Ingram's, Kansas City's business magazine.
  • The LEAD program garners national attention as a nominee for the 2011 ACE Network Award for the Advancement of Women in Higher Education.
  • William Woods University-known to students and alumni as "The Woods"-is chosen for Tree Campus USA status. It is the first year a college or university in Missouri has received such designation.
  • Students travel to Italy as part of Woods Around the World to increase global awareness
  • Woody's, on the lower level of Tucker Dining Hall, is remodeled to provide a gathering place for student functions, as well as various faculty/staff events.
  • Eight William Woods University students place in the top 10 in their respective categories, competing with more than 1,400 other college students at the DECA International Conference in Orlando, Fla.
  • A member of the WWU Board of Trustees, Theresa Vonderschmitt, donates a 15-acre country residence for the presidential home, allowing work to proceed on the new Alumni and Visitors' Center that previously served as the president's home.
  • Alumna Romaine Seguin, new president of the UPS Americas Region with responsibility for Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, speaks at commencement.
  • Professor Jack Dudley retires after 47 years at WWU. He has been the only WWU teacher to receive the Louis D. Beaumont Dad's Distinguished Professor Award in three separate decades.
  • A group of students and staff travel to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for a week of service-learning among the Oglala Lakota Sioux.
  • William Woods University is approved by its accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), to offer its first doctorate degree, a doctorate in educational leadership.
  • WWU is accredited by the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC), providing reciprocity with other states for master of education-administration and educational specialist degrees.
  • The Alpha Chi Omega chapter at WWU is the sole recipient of the National Council Trophy-the sorority's highest award for collegiate chapters.
  • For the second year in a row, WWU is one of the top 100 universities in the Midwest, according to the 2012 edition of U.S. News & World Report's annual Best Colleges issue. WWU jumped eight spots from last year.
  • As a result of a nationwide trend toward student transfers, WWU begins a campus-wide initiative to streamline the transfer process.


  • Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett celebrates the 20th anniversary of her inauguration as president of William Woods.
  • WWU celebrates the 10th anniversary of the LEAD (Leading, Educating, Achieving and Developing) program.
  • The Center for Ethics and Global Studies is established at WWU, funded in part through an anonymous gift to the university's endowment fund. This Imagine Campaign gift represents the largest gift from an individual in university history.
  • William Woods enrolls record number of students in fall 2010 as 340 new students cause the undergraduate enrollment to reach approximately 990, marking the largest on-campus undergraduate student body in university history.
  • U.S. News, which ranks 1,400 schools nationwide, ranks William Woods in top 100 Midwest universities.
  • President Emeritus Dr. Randall B. Cutlip, president of William Woods from 1960-1980 and honorary member of WWU Board of Trustees passes away at age 93.
  • Rita Mae Brown, best-selling author and Emmy-nominated screen writer,is the May commencement speaker. She is awarded honorary alumna status.
  • Rita Mae Brown publishes Cat of the Century--a mystery novel set on the campus of William Woods University.
  • WWU launches the Imagine Campaign, an initiative to raise $11.7 million to fund construction of a residential complex for sororities, an amphitheatre, establish the Center for Ethics and Global Studies, and to refurbish the presidential residence as a new alumni and visitors' center.
  • Graduate and Adult Studies becomes Graduate and Professional Studies, to reflect an increase in undergraduate programming offered in outreach settings.
  • WWU opens a fourth outreach facility, in Branson, Missouri.
  • Local chapter of Lambda Alpha Epsilon, a national criminal justice fraternity, is established with 12 charter members.
  • WWU team wins quiz bowl and right to represent Missouri's 11 accredited athletic training education programs in the National Athletic Trainers' Association District 5 competition.
  • The division of human performance creates a minor in coaching, available to all students with an interest in athletics.
  • The Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles visits campus to talk about his involvement in the civil rights movement and his friendship with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Kyles was with King when he was assassinated in 1968.
  • Pulitzer Prize winner and Mark Twain biographer, Ron Powers, speaks at WWU on 100th anniversary of Twain's death.
  • Students visit Holocaust sites in Europe as part of Woods Around the World.


  • WWU welcomes 335 new students in the fall, the largest incoming class ever.
  • Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett is named 2009 Alumnus of the Year by the University of Mississippi School of Education, is honored by Arkansas State University during its Centennial as one of its 100 most successful leaders and is selected as one of Ingram's magazine's nine Icons of Education for 2010.
  • The MBA program is ranked 5th in the Top MBA programs of Missouri and Kansas by Ingram's, a Kansas City business magazine.
  • William Woods University hosts Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams for PeaceJam Youth Conferences in November: Nobel Laureate Betty Williams, known for her work to end the conflict in Northern Ireland and her continued work on behalf of women and children affected by violence, is awarded an honorary degree.
  • US Senator Claire McCaskill is the May commencement speaker. She is awarded an honorary degree.
  • An Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) circle is created at William Woods. ODK is a national leadership honor society.
  • Dr. Mary Spratt, WWU Cox Distinguished Professor of Biology and 2008 Missouri Professor of Year, co-authors an article, "Genomics Education Partnership,"; and is published in the science education section of the prestigious weekly journal, Science.
  • At a meeting of the Missouri Branch of the American Society for Microbiology, WWU senior Kathryn Golden wins an award for her undergraduate research conducted in collaboration with Dr. Mary Spratt into tick-borne disease.
  • William Woods University students and horses are highlighted in a book, "Knack Grooming Horses: A Complete Illustrated Guide."
  • Equestrian Judging Team wins Collegiate Overall Highpoint Team and the L.V. "Cy" Tirell Award at Morgan Grand Nationals.
  • Prazer OBF, a horse owned by WWU, wins a United States Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year Award.
  • WWU athletics has a banner year. Men and women's golf teams are AMC champions and national qualifiers. Women's basketball is AMC regular season co-champs, AMC tournament champs and makes a national tournament appearance. The softball team is AMC regular season champion. The volleyball and baseball teams are AMC regular season and postseason tournament runners-up.
  • Two WWU baseball players sign professional contracts with Major League Baseball. Nick Wooley becomes the first player in the history of the 10-year-old baseball program to be drafted by MLB when he is drafted by the Kansas City Royals. Josh Goodin later signs a free agent contract to join the Baltimore Orioles.
  • William Woods is recognized by the NAIA as a Champions of Character Institution and the softball team receives the NAIA's Buffalo Funds Five Star Award for its dedication and implementation of the Champions of Character program.
  • A WWU fight song is created by faculty member Murphy Tetley.


  • WWU President Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett is named inaugural First Lady in Education and receives award from Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt and First Lady Melanie Blunt.
  • Students in a new concentration in therapeutic riding sponsor an Equestrian Special Olympics, which attracts 19 riders.
  • Graduate and Adult Studies offers first cohorts in Arkansas.
  • WWU welcomes 325 new students in the fall, the largest incoming class ever.
  • A new entrance to campus, called Woods Way, is established on the northwest edge of campus.
  • Dr. Mary Spratt, Cox Distinguished Professor of Science, is named Missouri Professor of the Year by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
  • Jefferson City facility takes over entire building at 919 Wildwood Drive, doubling its square footage from 9,750 to 19,500.


  • WWU graduates nearly 600 students in May, setting a record for a single commencement.
  • WWU begins offering online career training courses to allow more people to pursue their educational and professional goals.
  • American Sign Language Learning Community is introduced, creating a living environment made up of ASL majors.
  • NAIA Division I Men's Basketball is added.
  • Graduate and Adult Studies is approved by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (the university's accrediting body) and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to offer William Woods classes in the state of Arkansas.
  • Larry York is named American Midwest Conference and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Region V Athletics Director of the Year.
  • William Woods University hosts two Nobel Peace Prize winners for PeaceJam Youth Conferences in April and November: Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, known for her work to ban landmines, and Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum, a Quiché Maya Indian, known for her work as a peaceful advocate of native Indian rights in Central America, her leadership for indigenous people around the world and her involvement in the women's rights movement. Both are awarded honorary degrees.


  • Communication department adds degree concentration in digital filmmaking.
  • New residence hall, named in honor of President Emeritus Dr. Randall B. Cutlip, opens, housing 62 students.
  • Landon and Sarah Rowland Applied Riding Arena opens, made possible through a $300,000 lead gift from Sarah and Landon Rowland of Kansas City, Mo., and other WWU supporters.
  • Dr. John M. Bartholomy, President of William Woods from 1980-1990, passes away at age 71.
  • Office of Service-Learning is established to involve more students in organized community service that addresses local needs, while developing their academic skills.
  • WWU is selected as the Heartland Region headquarters for PeaceJam, serving youth in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and southern Iowa and dedicated to inspiring a new generation of peacemakers through contact with Nobel Peace Prize winners.
  • The exercise science degree program meets the criteria recommended by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for official recognition.
  • Master of education in athletics/activities administration program becomes one of the few to be recognized by the National Interscholastic Athletic Association as meeting the educational requirements toward becoming a Registered Athletic Administrator (RAA) or a Certified Athletic Administrator (CAA).
  • Judging Team wins the national championship at the U.S. National Arabian Championship Horse Show and takes many first place honors at the Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show, including an individual world champion title.
  • 2006 biology graduate Amanda Candee receives a public health fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.
  • Students raise $17,500 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital through a student-run organization, Up 'til Dawn.
  • Undergraduate major in management information science replaces the computer information science program.
  • Graduate and Adult Studies adds a direct admissions MBA program (for recent college graduates), and an agribusiness concentration to the current accelerated MBA program.


  • WWU opens new apartment-style Stone-Campbell Memorial Hall, with funding provided in part by John Schiffman of St. Louis.
  • 1,124 graduate from WWU in 2005, setting new record.
  • First male is elected to National Alumni Board of Directors.
  • Criminal Justice program is revised to provide a homeland security emphasis.
  • CIRCLES equestrian program for at-risk youth wins Martin Luther King award from the State of Missouri.
  • Two students, working with Dr. Mary Spratt on a research project involving ticks, Amanda Candee and Jillian Lee, win first place for the oral presentation of their research at the annual meeting of the Missouri Academy of Science (MAS). They later receive more honors at the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting in Atlanta, Ga.
  • Office of Career Services is created.
  • Graduate and Adult Studies offers master of education degree in athletics/activities administration.


  • Graduate and Adult Studies introduces a new Bachelor of Science degree in marketing and a Bachelor of Science degree in management with an emphasis in human resources.
  • A major in exercise science is developed to provide students with the academic preparation and practical experience to serve as fitness/exercise specialists in a variety of physical fitness, wellness, health enhancement and/or rehabilitative settings.
  • An 18-hour minor in film studies is introduced, and a number of new courses are developed in such areas as script writing, history, film critique and applied film study.
  • A minor in social work is introduced, requiring 18 credit hours, many of which also fulfill the university's general education requirements. As part of the new minor, a new course in community service-learning is added to the curriculum.
  • A minor in chemistry is added.
  • The Office of Faith and Service is created.
  • Men and women's cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams are added, as well as a university cross country/fitness course with funding provided by the Weider Corporation.


  • Undergraduate major in criminal justice is added to round out the offerings in legal studies, which already include political science, pre-law, paralegal studies and juvenile justice.
  • The university's new FM radio station goes "on the air" around the clock. The Pulse, operating as KWWU, broadcasts on 94.9 MHz
  • Graduate and Adult Studies begins offering the Specialist of Education in Administration program, which prepares educational administrators to be certified for the superintendent's certification.
  • Bachelor of Science degree-completion program in paralegal studies is introduced.
  • The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) grants approval for certified HR personnel to be re-certified for three years through WWU's MBA human resources program.
  • The Columbia facility expands again to 13,700 square feet to accommodate more students and new programs.


  • Division of Human Performance, comprising physical education, athletic training and sport management, is established.
  • $1.5 million Center for Human Performance opens, providing state-of-the-art care to WWU athletes and enhancing the university's ability to provide clinical experiences for students.
  • Graduate and Adult Studies moves to a larger facility in Columbia to accommodate the demand for additional classroom space--a new 7,500-square-foot facility at 3100 Falling Leaf Court.
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA) program with concentration in human resources is introduced.
  • The Owls volleyball team wins the NAIA/Tachikara National Men's Volleyball Championship. It is the first national championship ever for any William Woods athletic team. The Owls finish the season with a record of 31-4.
  • WWU's mock trial teams sweep the National Mock Trial Championship during the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-law Conference and Mock Trial Competition in Chicago.
  • The Lucille and Bruce Lambert Charitable Foundation, Inc. donates $500,000 to William Woods University. Camden Point and Centennial Hall are renamed Lambert and Brockman halls.


  • Graduate and Adult Studies implements new degree programs: AA-Liberal Arts, MBA-Accounting and MBA-Health Management.
  • Missouri awards an $80,000, three-year renewable grant to create an innovative new program, combining the study of social work with the study of American Sign Language (ASL). The ultimate goal is to provide the deaf community with social workers trained in their language.
  • An undergraduate honors program is added, enabling students to engage in a series of exceptional in-depth learning experiences in conjunction with their regular undergraduate program.
  • The Federal Communication Commission awards a license to William Woods for the construction and operation of a low-power on-campus FM radio station (KWWU 94.9, The Pulse) with a signal available within a three- to five-mile radius of campus.
  • Actor William Shatner is the May commencement speaker.


  • WWU institutes an innovative program intended to make the institution more affordable and, at the same time, encourage and reward involvement that makes for a complete, well-rounded liberal arts education. The $5,000 LEAD (Leading, Educating, Achieving and Developing) tuition award is available to any student, regardless of financial need, who agrees to make a committment to campus and community involvement.
  • A model courtroom, named for Bernard J. Weitzman, longtime trustee, is built in the Burton Business and Economics Building for the Legal Studies program. The facility is used for educational mock trials and hosts the Western Division of the Missouri Court of Appeals twice a year.
  • Two international fraternities, Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) and Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE), colonize on campus.
  • Best-selling author and Emmy-nominated screenwriter Rita Mae Brownaddresses the graduates and their families and friends at May commencement. She is awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Letters.
  • President Jahnae H. Barnett is chosen by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) to receive the Chief Executive Leadership Award.


  • New academic majors in juvenile justice (the first in the state), political and legal studies, as well as several areas of concentration in a new mass communication and journalism program are introduced.
  • Graduate and Adult Studies moves into a new, larger facility in Jefferson City-at 3405 W. Truman Blvd.-because of program expansion and enrollment increases.
  • $5.5 million, 41,000-square-foot Gladys Woods Kemper Center for the Arts opens, providing an art gallery and academic facilities for visual, performing and communication arts students. Much of the funding comes from the William T. Kemper Foundation and the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation. Gladys Woods Kemper was the granddaughter of Dr. William S. Woods. She served as the first woman trustee of the university from 1927 until her death in 1931. The art gallery is named in honor of Mildred Cox, wife of Clark Cox (Cox Science and Language Center- and former WWU trustee).
  • The Kresge Foundation awards the university a $100,000 challenge grant to help finance the $400,000 purchase of science laboratory equipment and endowment of science laboratories.
  • In a joint partnership with the city of Fulton, a new athletic complex providing facilities for softball and baseball opens in the spring of 1999, and WWU fields a baseball team for the first time.
  • "Mr. Las Vegas" Wayne Newton receives an honorary degree in music from WWU prior to performing a Christmas concert on campus to benefit student scholarships.


  • Auditorium in McNutt Campus Center named in honor of former president, Randall B. Cutlip.
  • Degree program for adults in computer information management is introduced.


  • Weider Fitness Center opens. It is named for honorary trustee, Joe Weider, president of Weider Health and Fitness, publishers of popular health magazines.
  • Electrical fire guts the Fine Arts Center, which is declared a total loss.
  • WWU opens its second off-campus facility-in Jefferson City, with 170 students.
  • NAIA Division I men's sports are added in soccer, volleyball, baseball and golf.


  • The first men to enroll in the traditional on-campus program start classes in the fall.
  • Board of Trustees votes to make WWU a coeducational institution.
  • WWU receives a $150,000 Connections Grant to develop programs, strategies and preventative measures to help Missouri students excel in school.
  • Mabee Foundation challenge grant of $620,000 is met, allowing for improvement of the equestrian science complex and the Amy Shelton McNutt Campus Center.


  • Kemper Foundation provides $1.5 million grant to build cultural arts center.
  • WWU receives National Science Foundation Grant of $42,000.
  • WWU establishes the innovative Mentor-Mentee Program, a platform for faculty and students interested in working together in either research or creative projects. The student member of a mentor-mentee team conducts independent research or engages in a creative project which may either be independent of or related to the faculty member's research or project agenda while the faculty member serves as a mentor-collaborator.
  • WWU celebrates is Quesquicentennial (125 years) and inaugurates a capital campaign.
  • Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee visits WWU and speaks about "keeping your eyes on the prize."
  • New computer system makes library more accessible through a $132,000 grant.
  • WWU creates a web site.
  • WWU introduces Century Scholars, an accelerated three-year baccalaureate program.


  • Dr. Mary Spratt, biology professor, receives her fourth National Science Foundation teaching enhancement award.
  • WWU and Westminster College receive a joint grant for $132,000 technology enhancements for both institutions.
  • WWU establishes a women's leadership program.


  • William Woods College becomes William Woods University.
  • WWU receives a five-year Title III grant totaling approximately $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Education for "Strengthening Institutions."Funds were used to strengthen academic quality through technological support by providing more computers, computer labs and technological upgrades for library; develop and improve student support services for minority, non-traditional and hearing-impaired students; improve and enhance faculty and staff development through comprehensive programs; strengthen the university's institutional advancement capabilities.


  • William Woods College began an extended campus program.

William Woods hasn't always been called William Woods University. Read more!

Over its history, William Woods has been under the leadership of a total of twelve Presidents.

William Woods University's archival documents are in the care of the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection at the Missouri State Historical Society in Columbia, Missouri on the campus of MU.