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Theodore Wood memorial August 28

Memorial services will be held on Chebeague Island, ME, on Saturday, Aug. 28, for Theodore Wood, Jr., of Winchester, professor emeritus of literature and American studies in the Literature Section.Those who want to attend may call Professor Wood's wife, Marcia, at (617) 729-4976.

Professor Wood, who taught at MIT for more than 45 years, died of cancer August 7 at the New England Medical Center. He was 79.

Professor Wood, who specialized in American literature, culture and folklore, was also well-known as a guitarist and folksinger who performed for groups in the Boston area. He also appeared regularly as a performer and interviewer on Dateline Boston, a locally produced television program, and he both produced and performed on televised courses broadcast by Channel 5 and by WGBH-TV (Channel 2), the Public Broadcasting System station in Boston.

It was to his teaching and his students, however, that he was primarily devoted. He spent his entire career at MIT and he was known as a student's teacher who spent much time outside classes with his students.

He was perhaps best known for his courses on the writer and humorist Mark Twain, but he was an authority on the full range of 20th century American literature, covering such authors as Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

He also was a scholar of American poetry and one of his teaching assignments was the subject, "The Nature of Poetry," which aimed to stimulate understanding and appreciation of the essentials of poetry.

Professor emeritus Richard M. Douglas, one of his colleagues in the Department of Humanities, said that Professor Wood's lifetime interest in Americana was perhaps best exemplified by the fact that he crossed the country six times by car early in his career.

Professor Douglas also recalled his friend's "remarkable baritone voice" and his passion for sailing, particularly in Casco Bay. Professor Wood spent some 60 summers on Chebeague Island in the bay, having gone there the first time with his family at the age of 13.

Professor Wood was born in Medford and was educated in private schools in Westchester County, New York. He received his bachelor's degree in English literature from Harvard University in 1935 and master's degree from Harvard in 1940.

He came to MIT as a part-time instructor in 1941 before serving three years in the Army Air Corps in World War II as a weather observer. He returned to MIT in 1945, and became assistant professor in 1952 and professor in 1972. He retired in 1979 but returned to the Institute a year later to teach for an additional two years.

Then, for 10 years, through last year, he taught Lifetime Learning Courses in Wellesley and Newton as a participant in the Retired Scholars Volunteer Program.

Besides his wife, Marcia (Barrows) Wood of Winchester, Professor Wood leaves a daughter, Laurie Wood McDonough of Kennebunk, ME; three stepchildren, Nancy M. Emery of Fall River, Clifton W. Emery of III of Westford and Peter B. Emery of Kennebunk, ME; a brother, Everett Wood of Hanover, NH, and seven grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or the Chebeague Island Library.

A version of this article appeared in the August 25, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 3).

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