Impactful Decisions: Billy and Betty Wood LIVE a vision of helpfulness
by Heather Hilliard
There are unique circumstances that sometimes motivate people to believe in a mission or a vision, or inspire a person’s commitment to a cause. Living a vision of helpfulness is reflected in this spotlight on one couple who have made a difference to Spartanburg Methodist College over the past 40 years, even though neither attended the school.
After graduating from Wofford College in 1950 and serving in the Army, Billy Wood went to work for Duke Energy. SMC was one of his accounts. Betty, his wife, was employed by Smith Wholesale Drug Company (which would eventually become JM Smith Corporation). Over years of campus visits and frequent interaction with employees, Wood observed SMC’s dedication to providing a liberal arts education to students from a variety of economic backgrounds, including those who otherwise couldn’t afford college.
The Woods, who have a strong religious faith and volunteer with numerous local organizations, work tirelessly to embody the principles of helping others.
That desire to serve also drew them to the college – and specifically to two aspects of the SMC mission: developing the worth and abilities of each student and enhancing each student’s sensitivity to the needs of others, allowing him or her to assume a responsible position in society.
In the summer of 1977, Billy and Betty made their first donation to the Annual Fund, which allows the college to use the money in any area where there is a need. Wood liked knowing his donation could be used for fall programming, and he was able to capitalize on Duke Energy’s matching gifts program to increase the power of his contribution.
Wood says his relationship with college staff was central to his decision to take action and donate to SMC. “They were all courteous and kind,” he recalls. That wasn’t the only factor, however. “They demonstrated that they could take the dollar and stretch it further than any college nearby.”
The couple’s gift began a connection to SMC that would continue for the next four decades. In July, to mark the 40th anniversary of their first gift to SMC, the Woods made a special Annual Fund contribution of $50,000. Combining this gift with past donations brings their lifetime giving to over $130,000, says Jennifer Dillenger, vice president for institutional advancement.
Their generosity and resourcefulness resonates with the staff and is appreciated by the students, Dillenger notes.
“I consider it a distinct pleasure to know Billy and Betty Wood,” Dillenger says. “Their lives reflect the values we instill in students. Their work ethic, commitment to the community and deep faith serve as an inspiration to many, especially those lucky enough to know them personally. They believe in the work being accomplished on our campus every day, and they have chosen to generously support it.”
Don Tate, SMC’s director of development and a college employee for more than 30 years, has known the Woods since the beginning of their relationship with the school. He says it’s gratifying to work with donors who are able to make positive changes at all levels of investment, and that the Woods recognize their contributions are an investment in a brighter future for students.
“Beyond their outstanding benevolence, both Billy and Betty have proven to be ambassadors for our mission,” he says. “The Woods have been truly engaged, and it’s meaningful to them to be able to see firsthand that they can make a positive impact on the lives of others.”
In addition to treasure, the Woods have also devoted plenty of time and talent to SMC, including helping to persuade others to support the college and volunteering at special events. As involved partners, they can see the shifting needs of the college as well as the bright future the new master plan (see page 24) will bring to the campus and community.
Wood sees his impact and those of others very clearly. “No doubt about it, there has been a lot of improvement on campus, not only construction but beautification in the last 10 years especially,” he says. “The first impressions are lasting impressions, and if anyone visits the campus, it is stronger than 25 years ago.”
For all they have done, the Woods don’t want any thanks. Instead, they want more people to do the important work of helping others, too. For those who may be considering supporting the college, Wood acknowledges that it can feel like a sacrifice: “Yes, it’s difficult in these trying times. Even with the highest wages, other things come first, such as ‘my wants’ and supposed necessities: boat, new car, house on the beach, or one in the mountains…things that go away over time.” The important choices are made for things that are everlasting, he says.
He’s also keenly aware that prudent donors want to ensure that their money is used wisely in a manner that is in line with their values and fiscal management principles. To them, he says a little research into how SMC conducts itself financially should set their minds at ease. “If you want to get involved, just ask some questions of the staff or ask about the school itself. Once you reach out, there’s nothing better than working with young people in a most positive way.”
The way we live reflects how we support what matters most in our lives. The unwavering support from two people who are not connected as alumni or college employees speaks volumes about what matters most to the Woods.