Yale Daily News

Mother and son Jean Wood DIV ’64 and Chris Wood ’90 pledged $250,000 to fund 10 scholarships at the Yale Divinity School for students specifically interested in social justice. 

According to Chris Wood, his family has been involved in social justice work for generations. After graduating from the Divinity School on full-tuition financial aid, Jean Wood began working as the director of Christian education at her local Methodist Church. 

“Our whole family has a passion for social justice that goes back generations,” Chris Wood said. “And Yale University as a whole has been pushing that mission, so we just wanted to keep that going forward, and a little bit different way.”

At the local Methodist Church, Jean Wood got the congregation involved in social justice projects by taking the youth groups on social justice trips.

However, Jean Wood noted that it was attending the Divinity School in the 1960s that ignited her interest in specifically giving back to the school. 

“The genesis for me was being at the Divinity School in the early 60s, during the whole Civil Rights movement and anti-Vietnam War protests,” Jean Wood said. “There were a lot of my fellow students who went on the Freedom Rides, but I couldn’t go at that time. And I always wished I had been a part of it.”

She continued her social work when she helped found the Coalition of Court Observers after the 1971 Attica Uprising. The organization advocated for equal treatment of Black defendants. Chris Wood, an ophthalmologist, has volunteered to perform eye surgery in parts of South America and Africa.

This donation is just one pillar of the University-wide “For Humanity” capital campaign that aims to raise $7 billion specifically geared toward scientific and leadership efforts. Recently, the Divinity School announced its accomplishment of offering full tuition coverage for students with demonstrated financial need.

“We are trying to recruit and nurture students who have been doing work in the social justice area, and want to come to divinity school to continue this work, in hopes of ultimately going out and with the refined education that they acquire here at YDS to even make a larger impact on the community and world,” Senior Associate Director of Major Gifts Rod Lowe said.

As a child, Chris Wood remembers thinking that all families heavily participated in social justice work. Currently, Chris Wood and his wife, Julie, work with Viator House of Hospitality, a safe home for young immigrant men seeking asylum in the U.S., according to their website.

This is not the Wood family’s first gift to the Divinity School. This gift follows their 2017 donation of “The Barry and Jean Wood Divinity Endowed Scholarship Fund” scholarship for students from underrepresented backgrounds. Jean Wood’s late husband Barry Wood initially suggested the idea of funding a scholarship at the school.

“The thing that I’m fascinated by the Woods family about is not only their philanthropy,” Lowe said. “But it is that they have deployed their resources in such a way that it is really transformational, both at YDS and through the various organizations that both Chris and Jean have supported over the years. I’m inspired by it.” 

The Divinity School was established in 1822.

Correction, March 15: This article previously included the incorrect first name for Chris Wood several times. It has been updated.

Alex used to cover all things the Divinity School. Now, she serves as Weekend Editor. She's a junior in Trumbull majoring in English.