Donald K. Woolley, 73

Jun 15, 2005

Retired photojournalism professor, speaker, and newspaper columnist Donald Kenneth Woolley, 73, died June 14 in Nashville, TN, following a brief illness.

An NPPA Life Member, Woolley started as a photographer and editor for Octoraro Newspapers in Quarryville, PA, before becoming chief photographer and manager of the photojournalism department at the Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, MO. Later, Woolley was an assistant professor at the University of Iowa School of Journalism for ten years before being named an associate professor at the College of Journalism at the University of South Carolina, where he was head of the photojournalism sequence until he retired in 1995.

Joe Lippincott, a photojournalism instructor at Boston University and long-time friend of Woolley’s, wrote, “I thought Don would live forever. The knowledge, joy, and upbeat humor he shared with all of us should have earned him immortality.” Lippincott first met Woolley at the University of Iowa. “Many of those of us whose lives he touched at the very beginning at Iowa did pretty damn well, thank you... Bernie Ketchum, Bob Finch, Tom Mosier, Bob Nandell, to name only a few. And so many more followed.”

Lippincott says, “In my Boston University photojournalism classes for the past 15 years, I always have found a reason to tell stories about Don’s final exams. Once, dressed as Santa, Henry Louis (a Leica dealer) landed his Army-issue helicopter on the roof of the journalism building (to deliver the exams). Once, Don had his teaching assistant go to Davenport or some far away town and stash the final exams in cattle cars, which eventually found their way to Iowa City so the students could rummage around in the straw - and God knows what else - for them.

“My favorite, though, was the summer he had the Saran-wrapped exams frozen in a 400-pound block of ice in Cedar Rapids and had the ice shipped to Iowa City and dumped into the Iowa River, which ran through campus. His teaching assistant was dressed in a pirate costume in a rowboat with a Jolly Roger flag flying on the bow, towing the block of ice toward Don and the students waiting downriver. They all had been issued Woolley-approved ice picks, of course. But by the time the block of ice got in close proximity to the students, exams were bobbing freely everywhere in sight. The water was very warm and the ice was rapidly melting.

“In the late 1970s, I invited Don to be a speaker at the Michigan Press Photographers Association annual seminar in East Lansing. He made an unforgettable presentation about how to photograph presentations, complete with an all-purpose portable do-it-yourself trophy kit.”

Woolley was active in NPPA events, including being a Flying Short Course speaker and judging numerous state and national contests. He is survived by his wife, Deborah K. Woolley of Nashville. The family asks that memorials be made to the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, MO.