Alumnus Injured in Iraq

Jessica Slenker

ABC “World News Tonight” co-anchor and Class of 1983 graduate Bob Woodruff is “coming along beautifully,” according to a statement released Wednesday by ABC News President David Westin. Woodruff suffered serious head injuries, upper body wounds and broken bones after his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) early Sunday morning outside of Taji, Iraq. Almost a week after the attack, Woodruff is reportedly being eased off a breathing tube and is slowly coming out of sedation. Cameraman Doug Vogt also suffered serious shrapnel wounds, and is said to be making “excellent progress.” Woodruff and Vogt were standing in the back hatch of an Iraqi military vehicle, filming patrol shots within their Iraqi security forces convoy, when their lead vehicle was hit by the roadside bomb.Woodruff’s wife, Lee McConaughy Woodruff ’82 immediately left their home in Rye, New York, to be at her husband’s side at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Accompanied by Bob’s brother David, Lee returned Tuesday to the National Naval Medical Center in Maryland, where her husband and Vogt are currently being treated. Dr. Peter Sorini told ABC that Woodruff has “increasingly shown signs of consciousness. He started to wake up more – move his arms and legs and just [Wednesday] morning started opening his eyes.” Both journalists were wearing protective gear, including helmets and ballistic glasses, and that played a critical role in their survival. In a statement on Tuesday’s “Good Morning America,” David said his brother is going through a “host of tests and procedures … and they’ll continue for some time. Doug is in better shape than Bob, but the signs that Bob is showing are as good as they can expect with this type of injury.”News of the accident broke on campus while University President Rebecca Chopp met with members of the Board of Trustees Sunday morning. Members paused to think about and pray for Woodruff and his family. “Many of our trustees know Bob since he is the Master of Ceremonies at our annual President’s Club dinner, and he and Lee visit campus frequently,” Chopp said. “[On behalf of the University] our thoughts and prayers are with Bob and his family. The Colgate community is hoping for a speedy recovery for Mr. Woodruff and strength for Mrs. Woodruff and her children.” The Woodruffs have maintained close ties with the University and have kept in touch with several teachers and classmates. Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Chair in Humanities Professor Peter Balakian taught Woodruff during his senior year, and has kept in touch with him through Lee, one of his former advisees. “[Bob] is a smart person, and has always had a great presence,” Balakian said. “He has a wonderful quality of being a fearless and extraordinary journalist, and a humane, sensitive person – a real model.”University Financial Vice President and Treasurer David Hale ’84 has known Woodruff since their days in Theta Chi together. “[Bob] is an absolutely wonderful person. He is so talented, hard-working – such a good, terrific guy. He and Lee are great members of the Colgate community,” Hale said.Woodruff made the most of his days here as an outstanding varsity lacrosse player (1983 co-captain), fraternity brother, and dedicated scholar who majored in English and graduated Magna Cum Laude. “Everybody on campus knew him as a really fun, smart, active, charismatic person who was completely in the fabric of Colgate life,” Hale said.After graduation, Woodruff attended the University of Michigan Law School, and then worked for several years as an international lawyer. While teaching law in Beijing in 1989, he was hired by CBS to translate news from Tiananmen Square. Shortly thereafter, Woodruff decided to switch career paths and enter the field of journalism. After a whirlwind of travels and positions between local television markets and national news outlets, Woodruff went on to win top broadcast honors and was recently named co-anchor of “World News Tonight” on December 5, 2005.”I am so happy for him with his career,” Balakian said. “His courage and integrity as a journalist are remarkable; he follows in a great tradition, which says a lot.”Theta-Chi President junior Kevan Hayat agreed. “Those of us who have met him can attest to the fact that Mr. Woodruff’s professional success has only been equaled by his personal generosity,” he said. “His courage and integrity have made it a continued honor to be his fraternity brother.”Acting Managing Editor of University Publications Rebecca Costello interviewed Woodruff for a 2002 Colgate Scene article, in which he acknowledged his appreciation for the Colgate curriculum in his current line of work. “Bob shared that he really feels the solid liberal arts education he got here at Colgate was the best way for him to prepare for a career in journalism – to learn history and language, philosophy and political science,” Costello said. “It enabled him to learn the trade and the craft on the job.”Woodruff went on to say in the same article, “I love being out in the field. I love reporting. Part of being a reporter is that you have to be somewhat addicted to adrenaline, particularly when you’re working in foreign situations, covering wars and conflicts and civil strife. You have to be curious about the world, to want to know what makes it tick, because it’s never a convenient assignment.”Despite the incessant risks associated with reporting from abroad, Woodruff is often revered for always wanting to be where the action is.”I think it was quite brave of Woodruff to be with the Iraqi forces,” Associate Professor of Political Science Doug Macdonald said. “It is still very dangerous in Iraq and will be for some time if we measure it from the standard of 100% safety. Roadside bombs (IEDs) are far less of a problem for U.S. forces than they were a year or so ago, as we have become better at identifying them and defusing them. Unfortunately, Iraqi forces have not developed that capacity to the same extent.”ABC reported that Woodruff and Vogt switched from an American military vehicle to an Iraqi convoy just about 10 minutes prior to the attack.”U.S. military vehicles have generally far better armor than Iraqi vehicles,” Macdonald said. “But the danger of IEDs will always be there until the insurgency is over.” Woodruff has traveled the world and broken major stories, yet he remains a devoted family man to Lee and their four children. “They have an incredible way of keeping their family together,” Balakian said. “The last time I talked to him, he was out on a balmy November day playing with his kids on the beach. They have a great family surrounding them in this time of crisis.”In a 2002, Scene essay Lee penned about her experiences as the wife of a foreign news correspondent, she emphasized the importance her husband placed on their family life. “As hard as it is on Bob to miss us when he is on the road, he tells me there is nothing like hearing your little girl say, ‘Hi, Dada’ on the satellite phone when you have been crashing on deadline all night … Despite many of his remote locations, we’re able to chat by phone almost every day.”Lee went on to explain the understood dangers of her husband’s profession. “In covering a war, journalists do not enjoy the normal immunity to be observers and documenters of the world’s events. They are occasionally hit by crossfire, or ambushed when traveling with soldiers. Yet in this war, they have actually become targets.”Friends, fans and viewers have posted hundreds of remarks on ABC’s message boards devoted to the journalist, including numerous well-wishes from the Colgate community. “Many faculty members, students and alumni contacted my office to express concern, to find out information, and to reach out to other members of the Colgate community,” Chopp said. “Every public meeting I have been at in the last several days has included time to mention Bob and his family.” For students who wish to show support for the family, cards can be sent to the Alumni Affairs Office c/o Vice President RuthAnn Loveless. “We will make sure the family receives this very good outreach by our students,” Chopp said.Judging by descriptions from his family and colleagues, there is nobody stronger and more determined to make a full recovery than Woodruff. In Lee’s own words from her Scene conclusion, “And when friends and acquaintances ask me almost daily if I am worried, my stock answer is, ‘He has to come back. He has four kids.'”

Information from wand was used in this article.