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Alumni Profile: Dean Woods

  R. Dean Woods is president of Foothills Community Foundation, a grantmaking public charity that brings together financial resources to support nonprofits in Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties.  A 1973

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R. Dean Woods is president of Foothills Community Foundation, a grantmaking public charity that brings together financial resources to support nonprofits in Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties. 

A 1973 graduate of Anderson University and an Easley native, Woods also served many years as vice president for institutional advancement. In fact, when Woods retired from Anderson University in 2017, he was given emeriti status—something normally reserved for faculty members.

The Foothills Community Foundation was started in 1999, with Robert Rainey, a local environmental engineer, as the president. After Woods’ 28 years of serving Anderson University in a time of unprecedented growth, the foundation board offered him an opportunity to serve in a leadership role there to continue work on connecting donors with needs that exist in the three-county area and growing the foundation to make more of an impact. In addition to Woods’ leadership, Anderson University President Dr. Evans Whitaker serves on the foundation’s board. 

When Woods started college at Anderson in 1971, it was during a unique time when the institution transitioned from longtime president Ed Rouse to incoming president Cordell Maddox and was building a winning athletic program.

“I got to know Dr. Rouse really well. I was involved with student government my whole two years at AU (AC in those days). I remember very well the retirement event they gave Dr. Rouse. We had that ceremony on what is the large front porch of Vandiver Hall,” he said. “As a student I got to be a part of the program, bringing a student word of appreciation to Dr. Rouse.” 

Woods remembers how easy it was to get to know his classmates and professors back then.

“In those days we were still pretty much a suitcase college, as some people would call it—they’d go home on weekends. Unless you were an athlete, you would take off on Friday and then Sunday evenings you would come back to the campus. We would always go to one of our favorite little restaurants in town, Besto’s. Just gathering with your suitemates, your roommates, eating a couple of hot dogs or ham, lettuce and tomato sandwiches with french fries and reconnecting, coming back to the campus for the week ahead on a Sunday evening was always a fun thing to do,” he said.

Woods played briefly on the Trojans Baseball team before focusing more time on student government. He recalls legendary coach Annie Tribble, an All-American who led the women’s basketball program to three national championships. He also recalled how the men’s intramural team would play pickup games at the old gymnasium with her team and how students could go out and volley with some of the tennis players as well. He recalls some big-time coaches would show up at games to look at Trojan athletes.

Among the highlights for Woods as student government president was getting to know administrators that included incoming President Maddox, as well as Dr. Paul Talmadge, who at the time was vice president of academic affairs before going on to become president of North Greenville University and to serve in leadership roles in the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove. Woods remembers how Dr. Talmadge took time to counsel him through challenging courses and professors, which included Western Civilization taught by Professor Dr. Henry von Hasseln. He also fondly remembers Bible class with Dr. Bob Burks, one of his favorite professors.

Though chapel met twice a week in Woods’ student days, he noted how things were different then.

“When I was a student, we had chapel two days a week in the old Merritt Auditorium, and you had assigned seats. They had roll takers—they would come up and see where the empty seats were and marked them,” he said. “I met and talked with older graduates of the school in the past when they had to go to chapel every day. We thought two days a week was challenging enough.”

For Woods and others, being a student at Anderson was sort of bittersweet—those two years flew by and he and his classmates would part ways as they went on to complete a four-year degree somewhere else. But as he recalls, those years at Anderson gave so many students a great start towards becoming successful in their chosen fields.

Woods continued his education at Furman University and then the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He returned to Anderson in the eighties as a pastor and then joined the Anderson University Office of Development. During the next 28 years he led the university’s development program and worked closely with three presidents and two interim presidents during a time of unprecedented growth. Anderson transitioned to a four-year college, then under President Evans Whitaker became a university that continues to grow and expand, offering graduate and doctoral programs. 

It was also a time of physical expansion for Anderson University.

“We did lots of good things over the years—the refurbishment of some of our buildings, the purchase of the athletic campus, phase two of the Rainey Fine Arts Center, the building of the Thrift Library, the building of the nursing school and adding several new residence halls. The last project I worked on was the G. Ross Anderson, Jr. Student Center and also receiving of the wetland areas, the Rocky River Nature Park area—such a nice addition,” he said. “

“The success that the university is having today is phenomenal. In reality it’s building on the strong foundations that go all the way back to the roots of the institution and its commitment to the faith-oriented higher educational institution back in the days of Dr. Annie Dove Denmark and the Sororians (the name given alumna from Anderson’s early years as a female college),” he said.

Woods is honored to be a part of the Golden Anchor Society, a group formed to recognize graduates of 50 or more years ago. 

“Those who come back and are involved, even those who have never set foot back on the campus since they graduated or given back to the institution in any way, I’ve gotten a chance to meet and know a lot of these folks and they have nothing but high esteem for the institution and for their experiences they had there as a student. The vast majority would owe their success in life to the good start and the good foundation that was laid for them during their brief tenure at AC in those days,” he said. 

The Class of 1973 is being welcomed into the Golden Anchor Society during their 50-Year Reunion, taking place May 4 and 5, 2023, at Anderson University. For details about the Golden Anchor Society, go online or contact Jason Rutland, associate vice president for alumni and parent engagement, at 864-231-2444.