Though UNF has become more of a traditional university, COBA Professor Lou Woods and other members of the original faculty recall the institution's nocturnal past with fondness. "Many of our faculty now don't remember what it was like to teach totally at night. We were all here at the same time," Woods recalls of the early days of UNF as a upper division university.
Originally from Massachusetts, Woods' family came to Jacksonville in 1957 and he later graduated from Bolles School. He received his bachelor's degree from Jacksonville University and his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After teaching for a few years at East Carolina University, Woods says he heard about a new university opening in Jacksonville and applied. He was confident the move would be a good one: "My contention was that Jacksonville was the best kept secret in the South. That's still my contention -- I knew the community and I knew its potential."
Even 25 years ago moving from Greenville, N.C., to Jacksonville was a major change for Woods. "(At ECU) The fast food restaurant was also a gas station. Jacksonville was really uptown." Of course Jacksonville did have its limits. "In 1972 Jacksonville only had two Chinese restaurants in town, just to give you some idea of how much its grown," Woods says. He started out teaching courses in both economics and geography and continues to do so.
Both the area and the University have changed over the years and many beneficial relationships have been created. One such affiliation -- with the Central American country of Belize -- began in 1984 when Woods and Betty Flinchum, director of the Office of International Programs, applied for a USIA (United States Information Agency) grant. "We wanted to open a program somewhere in the Americas and Belize seemed like a good place. It was an underdeveloped country and it had just gained its independence," Woods recalls. Although funding for the program has officially ended the residual effects continue, including the influx of Belizean students to the University and the creation of a master's of education program providing teachers in Belize with the opportunity to earn a degree from UNF.
As Woods predicted the decision to come to UNF has been a positive one. "It's comfortable. It's been interesting to watch the maturation of the University and to participate in the early years and the development of it."