The Giving Tree New grove honors Woods' life of service

On a Wednesday morning in late October, Col. Pendleton Woods saw another one of his dreams take root on the Oklahoma Christian University campus.

Woods, a decorated World War II veteran, helped secure the donation of more than 1,300 trees as part of a gift from the Apache Foundation and the Tree Bank Foundation.

This is just the latest act of service for Woods, who is a member of the Tree Bank board and is writing a history of the centennial trees in Oklahoma.

“Perhaps no individual personifies the ‘Greatest Generation’ better than Pendleton Woods,” OC president Dr. Mike O’Neal said. “His heroic World War II and Korean War service record certainly qualifies him as a true American hero. But it is his selfless service to his fellow man after escaping from a German Prisoner of War camp more than 64 years ago that really distinguishes Pen Woods as a great American. Thousands of Oklahomans, from Boy Scouts to lonely veterans in the VA hospitals, have benefitted from Pen’s generosity and tireless service.”

In 1942, Woods signed up for the Army Reserve after hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor. In October 1944, he was sent to Germany, on the Belgian front. On December 10, 1944, while on patrol behind German lines, Woods and seven others were cut off and surrounded by a German unit. Their squad leader was killed, another person was wounded, and the group of Americans was captured. So began Woods’ five-month ordeal as a prisoner of war. He and his fellow prisoners escaped on April 20, 1945, and reached the American lines five days later.

After the war, Woods signed up for the Army Reserve and earned a journalism degree from the University of Arkansas. He was later commissioned as a lieutenant and served as the 45th Infantry Division’s public information officer during the Korean War. He remained in the Oklahoma National Guard until he retired as a colonel in 1983, with 41 years active and reserve service. In 2005, he was named the Outstanding Ex-Prisoner of War in the nation, based upon public service and service to veterans.

After 21 years as an editor and press relations director for the Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company in Oklahoma City, he joined the staff at Oklahoma Christian University.

He is director of the Center for American Ideals on the OC campus and also leads the American Citizenship Center, an OC program that reaches out to youth with a message of patriotism, sense of purpose, drug abatement and commitment to public service.

He has given more than 7,000 volunteer hours of service to patients in the Veterans’ Hospital in Oklahoma City, setting up for 27 years, each Sunday morning, the equipment needed for chapel services.

He has served the Boy Scouts, the Variety Health Center, a United Way organization providing free or minimum cost health service to impoverished or low income expectant mothers and children, the Oklahoma City Mental Health Clinic, the Oklahoma County Senior Nutrition Development Foundation, the Oklahoma Veterans Medical Research Foundation, the Veterans Advisory Committee for the state of Oklahoma, the Epilepsy Association of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Disabilities Council, the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and many, many others.

He has received the national Jefferson Award for public service and the national Older Worker Award. He is a member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Historians Hall of Fame. He also has an honorary doctorate from Oklahoma Christian University.

Oklahoma Christian has named an annual service award in Woods’ honor and recognized him during a recent Veterans Day ceremony. Many of the trees that arrived on campus that October morning were planted in a grove named in Woods’ honor.

“Col. Pendleton Woods is a true American hero in every sense of the word and a treasure to Oklahoma Christian,” O’Neal said. “Those of us who are privileged to call him friend are truly blessed.”

By Ron Frost