Live Like Dan


One of the greatest joys of being a professor at USD is the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of students — one student at a time. One such student was Dan Woodruff ’98 (Feb. 21, 1973 – Sept. 8, 2000), whose God-given gifts of intelligence, curiosity about everything under the sun, and compassion for others were truly special.

In the middle of one semester about 17 years ago, Dan knocked on my office door in Olin Hall, plopped down on a chair and warmly introduced himself with the self-assurance he had earned as a U.S. Navy veteran. “I’ve been studying mortgage derivatives and am registered for your real estate finance class next semester,” he said. Over time, our student-professor relationship evolved into a friendship, first while he completed his coursework and graduated, and then during his two-year battle with an aggressive form of cancer.

To honor his achievements, personal qualities and fighting spirit, I led a campaign that raised more than $50,000 to endow the Daniel B. Woodruff Memorial Scholarship. I will always remember the conversation near the end of his life when I told Dan of the scholarship in his name. He understood with crystal clarity that his life had just taken on additional meaning. He knew that, like a diamond, the value of an endowed scholarship is forever. He was humbled in the knowledge that the Woodruff Memorial Scholarship would be awarded to extraordinary students who share Dan’s compassion for humankind, who are warm and loving individuals, and who also take seriously the important benefits inherent in real estate careers properly pursued. But in addition, echoing his unique characteristics, each student selected to receive the Woodruff Memorial Scholarship would have a special story that helped to shape and define their lives, and often the lives of others.

Scholarships are the lifeblood of higher education today, and donors who fund them generally work with university leaders to establish criteria for awarding them. Setting criteria for the Woodruff Scholarship was easy, however, as we all agreed that those receiving the scholarship would need to demonstrate the qualifications and attributes Dan personified.

We have recognized many incredible students among the 21 Woodruff Memorial Scholarship recipients, and their stories are as affecting as they are inspiring. From a 50-year-old father of five who commuted nearly 500 miles from San Jose to San Diego to earn his MSRE degree, to an intercollegiate athlete who displayed extraordinary compassion for a teammate whose life was torn apart by a family tragedy, Woodruff Scholarship recipients possess the character and moral integrity that make them wonderful representatives of our university community.

Each year at the Burnham-Moores Center’s annual real estate conference, the most recent recipient(s) of the Woodruff Scholarship make brief remarks about the meaning of Dan’s legacy, and the impact a USD education has on their current thinking and future plans. In early March, Woodruff scholarship recipients Carey Algaze and Nick Norris carried on this important tradition in front of more than 700 real estate and banking executives.

Some benefits of scholarships such as Dan Woodruff’s are obvious: they reward students for exceptional performance; ease financial burdens for parents and students; recognize the individual(s) responsible for providing the scholarship; and pay tribute in perpetuity to the achievements and legacies of those whose names grace the scholarships.

There are also benefits that may not be so readily apparent, such as: helping USD compete effectively in recruiting student scholars, budding artists, community service leaders and accomplished athletes; assisting USD in attracting a diverse mosaic of students whose backgrounds reflect society at large; providing USD additional resources to educate graduate and undergraduate student leaders who contribute meaningfully to USD’s growing national reputation; and instilling and enhancing a sense of pride and self-esteem in scholarship recipients.

Perhaps because his remaining time was so clearly limited, Dan instantly grasped the long-term meaning of the scholarship program endowed in his honor. Each of the 21 recipients of the Woodruff Memorial Scholarship, without exception, has also come to appreciate its significance. After digesting the importance of such an honor, they inevitably arrive at an astounding realization — they must now live up to the ideals of the Woodruff Memorial Scholarship.

Those who provide funding for scholarships, help students apply for and secure scholarships, or recognize the importance of scholarships by helping create new ones, are advancing the mission of the University of San Diego. My role in the creation and awarding of the Woodruff Memorial Scholarship has affected me profoundly. To help transform Dan’s special story into a stream of future scholarships for extraordinary USD students who forever will aspire to live up to Dan’s ideals is not just a joy and a privilege. It is one of the singularly most meaningful experiences of my career at USD. —Mark Riedy

Mark Riedy is the executive director of the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate and the Ernest W. Hahn Professor of Real Estate Finance.

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