Martha Maxwell Wood, Ph.D.

The world has lost a great thinker, doer, teacher, leader, uniter, and Servant of God, with the passing of Martha Louise Maxwell Wood, Ph.D.

Martha dedicated her life to Christian service when she was a teenager at the First Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. F. E. Maxwell, who predeceased her, as did her twin brother Frank and eldest sister Francine Bugg. Elder sister, Mrs. Janie Pople of Germantown, TN, is the family survivor.

Martha attended Central High School in Memphis and graduated from Mars Hill (NC) College and Magna Cum Laude at Mississippi College, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and a minor in music. She would go on to lead or sing in several church choirs and support the arts through various charitable causes, including as a founding member of Arts Clayton.  

Martha became a teacher at Natchez Junior High to begin her career in education, but left to become Director of Christian Education at the First Baptist Church in LaGrange, GA.  There, she met her husband Jim, who was editor of the daily newspaper, and they married June 19, 1954 in her Memphis home church.

After leaving LaGrange, the couple moved to Millen, GA, and then to Atlanta, where Jim worked on suburban newspapers, a trade magazine, and as a writer at Emory University. Shortly after arriving in the Atlanta area, Martha resumed her educational career and took a position as a mathematics teacher at Forest Park High School. During this time, she earned a National Science Fellowship – the first in Georgia following the Sputnik excitement stirred in America – earning a Master of Arts in Teaching from Emory University.  Her second son was born during her tenure at Emory.

In 1969, she became a part of the original faculty as a developmental mathematics instructor at Clayton Junior College. For a short time, she headed Developmental Studies at DeKalb Junior College (now Georgia Perimeter College), but returned to Clayton State to complete 25 years of teaching in the University System, retiring with the rank of Professor. She was named Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Clayton State, where an endowment was established in her honor by her family to fund annual Martha Wood Faculty Development Grants, which aid in the research and teaching interests of current CSU faculty members.

During the course of her husband’s career changes and entry into politics, she was a full-time mother and aided in the management of his newspaper and printing businesses, as well as his public service in the Georgia State Legislature. After he sold the daily newspaper he had started in Clayton County (The Clayton News Daily) and ran for a seat in the U. S. Congress, Martha restarted her educational career and began pursuit of her doctorate at Georgia State University. She earned her degree in educational psychology in June 1989, meeting her goal of earning her Ph.D. before she reached the age of 60.

Dr. Wood was the founder of the Southeastern Center for the Enhancement of Learning (SCEL), which was an educational consultancy she established to introduce students, parents, and teachers to the theory and ideals of mediated learning and cognitive enrichment, or the enhancement of student thinking skills.  An advocate of life-long learning and critical thinking, Dr. Wood’s work was influenced by, among others, Professor Reuven Feuerstein.

But Martha was most noted for her faith and service in the church and community.  Through more than 43 years of membership at Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in Lake City, GA, she taught Sunday School, served on the Administrative Board and other church committees, and was a devoted member of the Church’s Chancel Choir.  She also was active in the Lay Revitalization Ministry of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Martha was likewise committed to service in the community, evident by her work in the field of mental health and as a member of the Clayton County Board of Health, as an organizer of the Wesley Foundation at Clayton State University, but perhaps most notably as host of the annual Tomato Sandwich Party – a political/charitable fundraiser now benefitting the Good Shepherd Clinic – at her home on Sequoia Drive in Forest Park.

Martha’s family includes her husband Jim of 58 years and their four sons – Jim III, Max, Farrar, and Chris – and their families, which include her seven grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm at Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in Lake City. Dr. Candy Thacker and Dr. Rick Long will officiate. The family will receive friends Saturday from 5:00 to 8:00 pm at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Martha Wood Faculty Development Fund at Clayton State University.  Make checks payable to Clayton State Foundation and indicate for the Martha Wood Fund in memo line.  Mail to CSU Foundation, Attention: Reda Rowell, 2000 Clayton State Blvd., Morrow, GA  30260.  To make a credit card contribution or for further information, please call 678-466-4470. Thomas L. Scroggs Funeral Directors, Morrow in charge of arrangements. 770-961-2828. For online condolences visit www.thomasscroggsfuneraldirectors.com