Commodore Vanderbilt Wood Jr.
Commodore Vanderbilt Wood Jr. was born December 17, 1920, in Waynoka, Oklahoma, the only child of C. V. Sr. and Eva Beaman Wood. When C. V. was two years old, his family moved back to his father’s home state of Texas, settling in Amarillo, where his father became a railroad conductor.
Upon graduation from Amarillo High School in 1937, C. V. won a scholarship to Hardin-Simmons University as a champion trick roper in the Cowboy Band. C. V.’s time at Hardin-Simmons was memorable, if not infamous. He has been remembered as “probably the most mischievous student ever to enroll on the Forty Acres.” Dr. Collins, then dean of students, described C. V. as a student “whose brain never enjoyed an idle moment.”
C. V. reveals his love for HSU (and shows his spirit of mischievousness) in a letter to Dr. Rupert Richardson regarding fond memories of his student days. In the letter, he thanked Dr. Richardson for kindly advising him during a difficult time.
C. V. took Dr. Richardson’s advice to heart, turned his energies toward study, and transferred to the University of Oklahoma, where he later received a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering.
In 1948 C. V. was chief industrial engineer with Convair Corporation, and in 1950, became director of Southern California activities for the Stanford Research Institute, supervising techno-economic projects for industry and the federal government.
Walt Disney hired C. V. in 1953 as vice president and general manager for Disneyland, Inc. As Disneyland’s first employee, C. V. supervised selection and purchase of the land for the theme park. He was in charge of planning, financing, and construction of Disneyland, and he directed its first year of operation.
After leaving Disneyland, Wood formed his own company, Marco Engineering. Among the company’s projects was the development of Six Flags Over Texas and Freedomland in New York.
In 1961, C. V. merged Marco Engineering with McCulloch Corporation, an oil and gas exploration, geothermal energy, gas transmission, and land development company. There he worked on urban developments, including the creation of Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
C. V. achieved worldwide recognition in 1968 when he arranged the purchase of London Bridge by McCulloch. Under C. V.’s supervision, the bridge was dismantled stone by stone, shipped to Lake Havasu City, and reassembled. C. V. retired from McCulloch Corporation in 1980 as chairman and chief executive officer.
In 1987, C. V. became assistant to the Lorimar Telepictures chairman and helped merge that company with Time Warner. After the merger, he was retained by Warner Brothers to pioneer its entry into the studio tour attraction business. He planned, built, and in 1990, opened the company’s first attraction, Warner Brothers Movie World, on the Gold Coast of Australia.
With race car designer Carroll Shelby, C. V. co-founded the World Championship Chili Cook-off, a society that contributed more than $10 million to the Kidney Foundation and the Boy Scouts.
C. V. was a founder of the Mind Science Foundation, a charitable, scientific and educational institution chartered in 1958 to coordinate, support, and extend the study of the human mind. He served as secretary of the foundation as well as a member of both the board of directors and board of trustees.
He was a member of the Board of Governors of the American Stock Exchange, and served as vice chairman of the Exchange’s Advisory Committee.
C. V. Wood stands as a shining example that with encouragement and direction, even the most mischievous students can succeed. C. V. was president of Warner Brothers Recreational Entertainment Division at the time of his death at the age of 71 in 1992.
It is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to recognize one of her own and to formally induct Commodore Vanderbilt Wood Jr. into the HSU Hall of Leaders.
Mr. Wood’s children, C. V. Wood III and Deborah Wood, were unable to attend the ceremony today, but we will be sending them a video copy of the event, so please join me in recognizing them.