2023 Distinguished Service Award
Citation for Michael “Doctuh” Woods

A member of the faculty for three decades, you brought more than just a love of music when you arrived at Hamilton in 1993. You helped cultivate our community’s understanding of African American culture and history as an ambassador of all things jazz, and you connected with students on multiple levels with passion, care, and – let’s be honest – groan-inducing puns.

Question: What do you get when you combine a sweet potato and a jazz musician? 
Answer: A yam session

Question: What do you call a cow that can play a musical instrument? 
Answer: A moooo-sician

Your approach is often lighthearted and fun, but your music is serious, your message is powerful, and your commitment to students is profound.

You are known as a devoted teacher and an extraordinarily prolific and trailblazing composer who has written hundreds of compositions for choral, orchestral, chamber, and — most notably — jazz ensembles. As an advisor and friend to countless students, including serving as mentor to the Miami Posse Class of 2022, your influence has extended well beyond the classroom and well beyond the campus. And you have used your remarkable gifts to speak forcefully against racial injustice to bring change and greater understanding.

“I have always been outraged at any form of racial injustice,” you once wrote. “With my compositions I try to portray the best, the beautiful, the power, and the anguish of Black America in hopes that changes will be made before any more talent and potential [are] wasted or lost. My goal is to write music that is so powerful and beautiful and true that it becomes part of a worldwide thrust for peace and cultural equality and growth.”

And so you have, and we are a better and more enlightened community because of your work.

Question: What do you get when you combine a dedicated teacher, a supremely talented musician and composer, and a force for racial justice and understanding?
Answer: Doc Woods, the 2023 recipient of the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award.

Presented by John J. Christopher ’83, P’14
President, Alumni Association
October 6, 2023


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Alumni & Parent Relations

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Jacke Jones

Director, Alumni & Parent Relations

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