In our museum journey together, some of you may have engaged with Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass Board Member and enthusiastic patron, David Woods. David passed away on April 26th at his Appleton home. An obituary has been made public by his family and other tribute pieces have been written, making this less difficult to write than when I began several times weeks ago for someone who became a patron of glass, a mentor and a dear friend.
David joined the board of Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in 2011 with enthusiasm, humility and grace. At the time, he was CEO of AIA Corporation, a successful promotional products business he was recruited to turn around after many successful business ventures that marked his career. David grew up in the Boston area, and made several career moves around the country, however, moving to the Midwest was an unusual consideration. Always up for new challenges, he brought a fledgling company to Oshkosh from the East Coast and created a success story. As soon as this was on its feet, he started a new venture in Neenah: Adventures in Advertising, later known as AIA. And so it went with David.
I had the good fortune to meet David in the museum shop making a purchase when an astute volunteer alerted me that a “glass collector” was in and I should come down to meet him. It has been my practice to do so as often as possible, and knowing David was local was even more intriguing. I soon learned he was the CEO of AIA Corporation who loved art, cars, music, travel, and he collected glass. I also found he was not attached to other organizations as he was a relative outsider to the area which made him a perfect candidate for the museum board. I was pleased when he readily accepted the invitation to join.
David was an avid collector of many things, and with glass among them, he quickly became an enthusiastic advocate, patron and mentor for those of us who worked closely with him. He was also an insightful board member, taking risk when needed and caution when necessary. He championed the forming of an outside association with the Glass community as a Glass Advisory Council and rose to the challenge of Vice Chair of the museum board, fully intending to take on the leadership of the institution. That did not happen due to his dedicated service to another nonprofit that was in a challenging position. As the entrepreneur, David was good at resurrecting organizations and bringing them to life. Green Lake Festival of Music needed leadership and David took the helm, causing him to step down from his VP duties at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass. It is something I learned he took very seriously and remained a great disappointment to him to not be able to fulfill this commitment. However, there were always other ways to keep David engaged; commitment was second nature.
He attended SOFA Chicago as a museum ambassador. (SOFA is a gathering at Navy Pier annually to support Sculptural Objects and Functional Art, but mainly Glass). He also championed a fundraiser with other Ferrari owners called Art In Motion. David loved Ferraris. He owned two of them. The story he told was he needed the additional one for someone else to accompany him on a drive, which he took as serious fun. He took driving classes at Elkhart Lake and at Watkins Glen, and traveled to some of the elite auto showcases like Pebble Beach. This wove a perfect match of his interests: glass, cars and helping others.
|Always a cheerleader for the museum, David gives Secretary Klett a ride in the red Ferrari.|
David had a zest for life, actively pursuing new experiences, intellectual directions and maintaining friendships. He was humble about his professional accomplishments, although they were many and as a Board member and friend, he was a supporter, ally, and mentor who shared his wisdom freely when asked. His favorite bit of advice was “help is defined by the helpee…” He also shared generously to support the causes he cared about. I can speak for all of us at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass that we relied on his thoughtful contributions, and we can hardly begin to imagine the hole his passing has left in the many lives he touched.
A memorial service is planned by family for August 24, one day before his birthday, in Hollis, NH at Beaver Brook Association, another of his great passions where he has established a scholarship for inner city children to spend a day at camp. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family: sons Stephen, Nicholas, and Theodore and his six grandchildren, and the many friends who will miss his presence. https://www.forevermissed.com/david-woods/
To remember David, we have established a fund in David’s memory to provide art education opportunities at Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass for area youth. You may contribute online or mail a check to the museum.
Jan Mirenda Smith
Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass