A Madison Experience in overtime

JMU News
Cliff Wood ('88)

SUMMARY: Cliff Wood ('88) gives back to Madison through donations, volunteering and support of JMU Athletics.

From Spring/Summer 2017 Madison

Cliff Wood's ('88) graduation from JMU was a little bittersweet. "I enjoyed every day I was here. I would have loved to have stayed longer, but I ran out of money," he says, smiling. But despite moving on with his diploma, Wood has remained engaged with his alma mater.

Call it his Madison Experience—in overtime. Wood's undergraduate career at JMU was a rich one; and sports, a lifelong passion, was a big part of it. From playing pick-up basketball games with future Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Haley ('87), who lived on his hall, to participating in intramural basketball and soccer, to organizing sporting events as Interfraternity Council chairman, he was active.

"I wasn't the greatest student," Wood admits. "If I could do it over again, I would lean into my studies more. But I grew up a lot here and forged a lot of lifelong relationships."

JMU is a place "where there aren't any strangers," says Wood, a self-described extrovert. "People introduce themselves to you. I felt that way as a student. I feel that way as an alum. It just makes you feel at home. Every time I come back to campus, I'm at home."

After earning a bachelor's degree in political science, Wood spent a year with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Virginia before taking a job with Circuit City, a Richmond-based consumer electronics retailer. When the company founded CarMax in 1993, Wood had the opportunity to join the new venture. "This was a chance to get in on the ground floor," he says. Starting as a buyer-in-training, he rose through the ranks and in 2007 became vice president of sales. Last year, Wood was named chief operating officer.

"At that point, I felt like I needed to pay back the university—not only through money, but through time and volunteering and helping to raise money."

Wood joined the Duke Club, serving on the group's board beginning in 2005. That led to more involvement: the Madison Founders Society, the President's Council and, currently, the board of the JMU Foundation.

"As I got more involved, I could never reconcile the fact that people feel the way they do about JMU and yet few give back to the university. … I haven't always been in a position to give, so I just started with what I could afford."

The Woods are regular donors to the Duke Club, including a $250,000 gift to the new Convocation Center. They have also supported JMU's Student-Athlete Leadership Development Program, which is designed to help student-athletes with their personal and professional development.

Their most significant gift, however, will touch every facet of the university. Last year, the Woods made a $500,000 commitment to JMU's general endowment, an unrestricted fund. "I didn't want to have an endowment that was restricted to something that was important right now, but in 10 years wasn't going to be important," he says. "I have trust in whoever is going to run the foundation and the university that they'll make the best decision with that money."

Photo of Cliff Wood and family
Last fall, Will Wood followed his dad's example of involvement by working as an equipment manager for the football team. "He picked a great year, didn't he?" his father says. The Woods were in Frisco, Texas, in January to watch the Dukes win a championship.

Wood regularly attends athletics events at JMU with his wife, Kristen, daughter Katie and son Will, a JMU freshman. He says it's hard to define what makes JMU such a special place. "With my job, I cross paths with a lot of people from a lot of universities. Obviously, I'm biased, but I've never seen an alumni base that's more proud of their school—and I don't mean athletics, I mean proud of the school. Where I work, everybody knows I went to JMU, and I know everybody who went here. There's that bond you just don't see at other schools."

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Published: Monday, April 10, 2017

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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