Dudley Woodard, one of Texas' finest


Dr. Dudley Woodard
Date: 
Mon, 1881-10-03

*Dudley Weldon Woodard was born on this date in 1881. He was an African American mathematician.

From Galveston Texas his father worked for the U. S. Postal Service. Woodard was a smart youngster whose curiosity was supported by his family. After finishing his primary education in his home state, Woodard attended Wilberforce College in Ohio, receiving a bachelor degree (A. B.) in mathematics in 1903. He then received a B. S. degree in 1906 and an M. S. degree in mathematics at the University of Chicago in 1907. From 1907 to 1914, Woodard taught mathematics at Tuskegee Institute and then moved to join the Wilberforce faculty from 1914-1920.

In 1921, he joined the mathematics faculty at Howard University. During this time received his Ph.D. Mathematics in 1928 at the University of Pennsylvania. Woodward’s thesis was entitled: On Two-Dimensional Analysis Situs with Special Reference to the Jordan Curve Theorem. While at Howard, he was also selected Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences where he worked until 1929. Woodard became the second African American to earn a Ph.D. degree in mathematics. Woodard was married and had a son who later joined the faculty at Howard. Dr. Woodard established the M. S. degree program in mathematics, making Howard's mathematical program as one of the best for study among America’s Historically Black Universities and Colleges.

He was the thesis supervisor for many of Howard's M. S. degree students. He also established the mathematics library at Howard. He established and sponsored several professorships and many scholarly seminars in mathematics. Among his colleagues and students, Woodard excelled and was very popular as professor and administrator. He was highly respected by those who knew him in the mathematical sciences community. Deane Montgomery, former president of the American Mathematical Society and the International Mathematical Union described Woodard as, "an extremely nice man, well-balanced personally." Leo Zippin, who was an internationally known specialist in Woodard's field, said that he was "one of the noblest men I've ever known."

Dr. Woodard was not only a brilliant mathematician, but a man of dignity; he enjoyed life in spite of his racial environment. He used the phrase, "black is beautiful" in the 1930s; he often ignored the "colored" signs and visited any men's restroom of his choice. He also ate at many "nice" restaurants and enjoyed the theaters of his choice in New York. He and his family once moved in what had been an all-white neighborhood because it was aesthetically nice and it was near Howard. Woodard devoted his entire professional life to the promotion of excellence in mathematics through the advancement of his students, teaching and research. Dudley Woodard retired in 1947 and died July 1, 1965 in his home in Cleveland Ohio.

Reference:
The Modern History of Blacks in Mathematics

To Become A Mathematician

Person / name: 

Woodard, Dudley