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Donor Spotlight

John Woodside '36

Former Arkansas State football and basketball player John A. Woodside came back to the campus of Arkansas State University in June of 2014, spending part of his day visiting with A-State officials and members of the local media at the Convocation Center.  

Records indicate the 98-year-old alumnus is the school’s oldest living letterman. Woodside was born in Jonesboro in 1916 and was the first member of his family on his mother’s side to be born a U.S. citizen after his parents emigrated from Cheltenham, England, to the United States in 1889.  

He grew up in Thomasville, Mo., where his parents, John C. and Mable Woodside, were instrumental in establishing Thomasville High School in 1921.  His mother was one of the first faculty members at the First District Agricultural and Mechanical School (the predecessor of Arkansas State) when V.C. Kays recruited her to teach Greek and Latin at the school in 1910.

After finishing high school, he came to Arkansas State as a 16-year-old; he started school as a second grader and completed the fourth and fifth grades in the same year.  He moved in with his grandparents who lived in Jonesboro and began as an agriculture major, but eventually switched to chemistry after taking a sophomore chemistry class.  During his time at Arkansas State he also competed in football and basketball from 1932-1936.

Following graduation, Woodside earned his master’s degree while working for a company outside of Stillwater, Okla., in 1942 and that spring he married and took a new job in Kansas with Spencer Chemical.  In 1965, he was sent to Kuwait by Gulf Oil, which had bought out Spencer and then to Spain three years later.  In 1971 he retired from Gulf, but received a job offer from Occidental Petroleum and spent the next few years in Saudi Arabia before coming back to Houston in 1975.  He worked at several different locations before retiring in 1981.

Woodside now resides in Lufkin, Texas, and in 1990 he and wife established the Mable Symons Woodside Memorial Scholarship Endowment in honor of his mother and her commitment to students she taught over the years. Since the endowment’s inception, it has assisted more than 50 Missouri students in receiving their education at Arkansas State and has reached the $1 million level.