Alumni

When Joan Wood, W’60 and G’70, describes herself as a “perennial student,” she isn’t being hyperbolic. As a resident of retirement community Westminster Canterbury Richmond, she’s taken classes in everything from French to Palestinian literature.

“My first love was always what we used to call the liberal arts,” she said. “And I always said that in retirement, I was going to indulge myself in that kind of experience.”

It’s par for the course for a woman with four degrees — the two from Richmond, both in history, and two from VCU, a master’s in gerontology and a doctorate in psychology with an emphasis on aging. She received her doctorate the year she turned 50.

In addition to pursuing knowledge, Wood shares it. After attaining a bachelor’s degree, she taught high school in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, and at Southside Virginia Community College, receiving a master’s from UR along the way. When VCU began its graduate program in gerontology, she was immediately interested in studying the then-nascent field, eventually joining its faculty.

“It was the women scholars on the faculty at Westhampton College who showed me that I could have a career in academia,” said Wood, who later taught at the University of California, San Francisco, before retiring at 70 and moving back to Richmond.

When she isn’t adding to her formidable range of expertise — or visiting campus for various events — Wood gives occasional talks about aging at Westminster Canterbury Richmond.

“Aging is a field about which everybody has an opinion, but a lot of the commonly hailed ‘normal’ beliefs about aging are not based on science but on myths and stereotypes,” Wood said. “What I do is differentiate ‘normal’ aging from disease: what’s to be concerned about and what you should not worry about.”