David Woolly, superintendent for Alma School District, poses with his recently received Andrew J. Lucas Alumni Service Award after the October school board meeting. Woolly was presented with the award for his significant contributions to the Razorback Band and other programs at the University of Arkansas.
While small acts of generosity may go unnoticed, it is often difficult for those who give in excess to remain anonymous.
Yet somehow, David Woolly, a well-known and well-liked superintendent at Alma School District, has been able to keep a lid on the true extent of his altruism, at least in the local community.
That is, until Woolly and his brother William were presented with the Andrew J. Lucas Alumni Service Award for significant contributions to the Razorback Band at the University of Arkansas.
Both brothers were presented with the award Oct. 11 during the 69th annual Arkansas Alumni Awards Celebration in Fayetteville.
Giving back is an important part of Woolly’s life, he said, and something everyone is obligated to do if they can.
“I feel very strongly that everyone should give of their time to something - there are lots of worthy organizations in the world,” Woolly said.
It all started, Woolly said, with his oldest brother Jim being too small to do well in football. Instead, he joined the high school band, which influenced the two other Woolly brothers to join as well.
Woolly played the oboe and bassoon in high school, a passion that continued on at the U of A where he performed in both the marching and concert bands.
The Woolly brothers have contributed to numerous initiatives at the university, including the Eldon Janzen and Sanford Tollette Band Award, the Razorback Band Development Fund, Alma School District Summer Music Camp and the Arkansas Alumni Association Scholarship Fund, according to the Arkansas Alumni Association.
During the awards presentation, Graham Stewart, executive director for the Arkansas Alumni Association, said the brothers “worked tirelessly” to create the Razorback Band Alumni Society during the Campaign for the 21st Century. Woolly is an emeritus member of the society board, while his brother currently serves on the board.
Additionally, both men are life members of the Arkansas Alumni Association and have belonged to the Chancellor’s Society for more than 10 years. In 2005 they were recognized as Towers of Old Main, the university’s most prestigious giving club.
“I can’t emphasize enough, it’s all about giving back,” Woolly said. “Giving back to the UA band program was something important to us. There’s nothing in it for us outside of the satisfaction of giving back to other people. Except that it has been a lot of fun.”
The brothers have focused on two specific projects “they believe will enhance the band experience and help cultivate the next generation of standout band students,” Stewart said.
The first is the Max and Kathlyn Woolly Graduate Assistantship, named for their parents, which provides funding for graduate assistants in recognition of their outstanding leadership potential.
Max and Kathlyn Woolly were administrators and teachers at the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock. The brothers lived and were raised on its campus, Woolly said.
“I was in high school before it ever crossed my mind that there was any other way to make a living other than education,” Woolly said.
Woolly’s life reflects that early influence. He began as band director at Alma High School in 1972, he has worked his way up to his current position as superintendent of schools, currently in his 38th year as an administrator with the district.
The second project important to the two brothers is the Razorback Band Alumni Association’s Awards fund, which provides funding for class gifts for band students to celebrate their years of service.
Band members receive a class gift for each year of service to the band, paid for out of pocket by the brothers. The first year is a hoodie, the second a backpack, the third a Fossil watch and the last year is a customized class ring.
Robert Hopper, associate director of operations for University of Arkansas Bands, spoke about Woolly from the perspective of a UA student, alumnus and staff member.
Hopper was a member of the university band when Woolly and his brother began providing the student service gifts, he said.
“Being in the band was enough for me, but when you get those gifts, you think, ‘Gee, here’s an alumnus that was so affected by the program that they want to give back,” Hopper said. “It creates a culture of giving that we continue to promote in our program.”
Service gifts provided by the Woolly brothers “did much….to show appreciation for students in the band program,” Hopper said.
Woolly and his brother began giving back while still undergraduates at the university. They created Razorback Band Alumni Association Films Films in 1970 with the primary purpose of providing film and photography services to the University of Arkansas Bands program.
For more than 30 years, the brothers have filmed, photographed and edited footage from university concerts, rehearsals and Razorback Marching Band performances.
In addition, Woolly and his brother spent uncountable hours filming and photographing events outside of the band to help pay for the needed camera equipment, he said.
While they have curtailed the number of non-band for-profit projects - mainly, Woolly said, because the equipment is pretty much paid for - they still film most all of the band events.
When asked why he has sacrificed so much of his time giving back after he was able to just cut a check, Woolly answered that giving financially is important, but “giving of one’s time is what truly makes a difference.”
“The important point of that is we don’t consider it a chore; we consider it a great privilege to get to do,” Woolly said.
Woolly supports the band, he said, because he learned leadership skills as a member; he and his brother served on the student band staff and both received awards for their leadership as undergraduates.
“There’s too many things in life to be involved in everything; band is the thing I chose to do,” Woolly said.
One thing is for sure; students and staff of the UA band program have certainly been affected by the Woolly’s generosity.
“Their contributions in filming the Razorback Band can not be understated; we have used that in terms of teaching, but more often as memory makers,” Hopper said.
Having the high quality footage and photos to look back on provide an ability for band members to showcase their work, but also history they can cherish, he said.
And, what impresses Hopper the most about Woolly is that he’s not a passive contributor. Woolly and his brother continue to film and photograph almost every band event, he said.
“He is a very visible part of our family,” Hopper said of Woolly.
Perhaps more telling than the praises sung by those at the UA who knew of the brother’s contributions are those closest to Woolly who said they knew almost nothing about his work with the university until he was given the service award.
Chuck Baker, Alma city attorney and a member of Alma School Board, is a close friend of Woolly.
Baker - and many others at the school and in the community - had no idea Woolly was such a significant and esteemed contributor to the university, he said.
“Personally, I’m proud of what he’s contributed to the University of Arkansas and it’s a great honor that he’s employed at Alma,” Baker said at the school district’s October board meeting.
For Woolly, this is not the end of an era. He plans to continue to give as much as he can to the university, “branching out” into other programs, he said.
He is a member of the dean’s advisory council for the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, which is influential in setting the course of the college, and is involved in the UA Development division, currently gearing up for a billion dollar fundraising campaign meant to help the school position itself as a Top 50 university, he said.
“I don’t consider I’m anywhere at the end of finding new opportunities to continue to serve the University of Arkansas,” Woolly said. “It all started and continues with the university band.”