College of Arts and Sciences

Mary Olive Woods History

Mary Olive Woods was born in Littleton township on April 23rd, 1871 and died in Macomb, IL at the age of 85. Following a complicated twenty-nine year court case a portion of her estate was given to Western Illinois University. The complications with Woods’ will stemmed from the fact that she and her husband Orel Woods never had children and that her original will stipulated the inheritance should go to the U.S. government if it ever became a theocracy under one Protestant God. However, a 1959 court decision found Woods sound of mind but noted that a theocratic government was unlikely in the United States. In 1985 a McDonough County Circuit judge ruled that 75% of the trust funds would go to the Littleton Baptist Church while the remaining 25% would go to the Western Illinois University Foundation, a fund-raising branch of the University.

Objectives of MOW Trust

The primary objectives of Mary Olive Woods Trust are to provide, under the auspices of the Departments of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Mathematics and Philosophy, support for the education of students in the departments and for lectures.

The Departments of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Mathematics and Philosophy are fortunate to have the MOW Trust to support scholarships and an annual lecture. The MOW Trust has supported an eclectic and impressive group of scholars since 1987. Past MOW guest speakers include: Ninian Smart, Martin E. Marty, Michael Ruse, Wendy Doniger, and Alvin Plantinga. Every Fall a campus-wide lecture is given followed the next morning by a smaller discussion and question/answer session open to interested students and faculty.

More information about the Mary Olive Woods Scholarships

Tobias Winright to Deliver the 2017 Mary Olive Woods Lecture

Tobias Winright, who holds the Hubert Mäder Endowed Chair in Health Care Ethics and is Associate Professor of Theological Ethics in the Department of Theological Studies, both at Saint Louis University, will present "Just and Unjust Policing: Reflections from a Former Law Enforcement Officer Turned Religious Ethicist." Winright (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) possesses previous professional experience in law enforcement (both corrections and policing) and lay ecclesial ministry (youth and campus ministry). He has coauthored, co-edited, and edited five books, including Can War be Just in the 21st Century? Ethicists Engage the Tradition (Orbis 2015), and is currently writing two monographs: Just and Unjust Policing: The Ethics of Law Enforcement, and Trigger Warning: Catholics and Guns.

The 31th annual lecture is sponsored by the Mary Olive Woods Foundation and the WIU Departments of Mathematics and Philosophy and Liberal Arts and Sciences. The Mary Olive Woods Foundation also provides several thousand dollars in student scholarships each year in addition to an annual lecture presentation.