Philosophy & Religious Studies

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 Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, support for the education of students in the department and for lectures.

The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies is 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

Peter van Inwagen to deliver the 2016 Mary Olive Woods Lecture

Peter van Inwagen, the John Cardinal O’Hara Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Research Professor of Philosophy at Duke University will present "Evil and the Existence of God." In the lecture, van Inwagen will respond to the argument that evil and an omnipotent, morally perfect God cannot co-exist. Van Inwagen is one of the most influential philosophers in the area of metaphysics and is the author of  An Essay on Free Will; Material Beings; Metaphysics; God, Knowledge, and Mystery; Ontology, Identity, and Modality ;  The Problem of Evil ;  Existence: Essays in Ontology;  and the forthcoming  Thinking about Free Will . He is also the author of about 150 published articles.
The 30th annual lecture is sponsored by the Mary Olive Woods Foundation and the WIU Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. The Mary Olive Woods Foundation also provides several thousand dollars in student scholarships each year in addition to an annual lecture presentation.