Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Archives at the Library of the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies [Contact Us]420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106-3703
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Archives at the Library of the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Albert J. Wood, a Philadelphia businessman and philanthropist, served on the Board of Directors of Dropsie College and its successors, the Annenberg Research Institute and, following a merger into the University of Pennsylvania, the Center for Judaic Studies and later the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, from 1981-2006.
Mr. Wood studied at Osteopathic College and Villanova University. Instead of medicine, he chose a career in marketing. In the 1930s, he persuaded Lit Brothers, a large, well-known Philadelphia department store, to offer charge cards to its customers. His company, A. J. Wood Research, was involved in marketing research. He worked with the government and motion picture industry, and a number of well-known corporations such as Gerber, Minute Maid, Heinz, General Foods, Nestle, Scott Paper, Wrigley and Volkswagen. He and his staff measured customer attitudes to new and existing products, such as cellophane (DuPont), television size (Sylvania in 1952), as well as taste preferences for beer and whiskey.
Al was involved in a variety of educational groups and organizations in the Philadelphia area, including the Moore College of Art and Design where he served on the Board of Managers, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Zionist Organization of America, and the Middle East Forum. He opened the A.J. Wood Galleries in Philadelphia to encourage young artists. He also served on the Board of Abilities, Inc. of Long Island.
Dropsie College, was founded in 1907 after the death of Philadelphia attorney Moses Dropsie. Dropsie left money in his 1895 will to establish a college in Philadelphia which would offer a doctorate degree, and, after 1952, master's degrees in areas such as Hebrew, Arabic, and other Semitic languages, biblical and rabbinic studies, medieval Jewish philosophy, Assyriology, and Middle Eastern studies. The first president of Dropsie was Mayer Sulzberger who was succeeded by Cyrus Adler.
Al Wood joined the Board of Directors of Dropsie College in 1981. Later that year, the College, located at Broad & York Streets, was devastated by a catastrophic fire which greatly affected the library, destroying many valuable books and cuneiform tablets. Following the fire, the College temporarily moved to Temple Adath Israel in Merion, Pa., while seeking a new permanent home. The school's financial difficulties, by the 1980s, were such that the school needed not only money but a new focus to attract more students. Wood interested former Ambassador Walter Annenberg, a Philadelphia businessman, philanthropist, and the owner of Triangle Publications (best known for publishing TV Guide) in the College. In Annenberg's honor, the school was renamed the Annenberg Research Institute in 1988. Annenberg wanted to build a world-class facility for the new institute. Al Wood, as Chairman of the Board, worked to find a suitable location. The present site of the Katz Center at 420 Walnut Street was chosen, an architect was selected, and construction commenced on a plot of land owned and donated by the General Accident Insurance Company. The new building was completed in 1988. Annenberg was selected as Chairman of the Board.
In 1993, the Annenberg Research Institute merged with the University of Pennsylvania, becoming the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. At the time of the merger, the focus of the Center changed; it ceased to offer its degree-granting program and focused instead on post-doctoral research. Al Wood continued to serve on the Board until 2006.
Mr. Wood was married twice. His first wife was Johanna Cutler with whom he had three children--Geraldine, David and Peter. His second marriage was to Eloise ("Ele") Wapner Larrea, his wife at the time he served on the Board of Dropsie, Annenberg Research Institute and the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Al was stepfather to Ele's children: Gaizka Idoeta and Zuri Idoeta Larrea. Al died in 2006 at age 95.
The Albert J. Wood Papers cover key events in the life of Dropsie College and the Annenberg Research Institute from 1984 to 1992. Much of the collection consists of correspondence with former Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg. There is also a significant amount of material related to the merger negotiations with the University of Pennsylvania in 1993, as well as other merger possibilities that were looked into, including with Brandeis University and Bryn Mawr College. Albert Wood also traveled to Rome in 1989 and 1990 in order to look into a possible affiliation with the American Academy in Rome.
The Albert J. Wood Papers are composed of the correspondence, meeting minutes, and printed publications saved by Mr. Wood while he served as Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Board at Dropsie College, Annenberg Research Institute and the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania from 1983-1993. The Papers represent a "moment in time" as Dropsie stood on a financial and ideological precipice trying to find a solid footing and place among universities offering advanced degree programs in Judaic education. Out of the ashes of a tragic fire at its library at Broad & York Streets in North Philadelphia in 1981, with the financial backing of Ambassador Walter Annenberg, like a phoenix, Dropsie was reborn, first at its temporary home in Merion, Pa., and later at a new home built specifically for the Institute, on Walnut Street in the Independence Hall area of Philadelphia.
The organization of the collection was, by and large, created by Al Wood or his assistant. While the Series titles (Annenberg Research Institute, Center for Judaic Studies and Miscellaneous) were created at the Katz Center, the titles for the most of the individual folders were created by Mr. Wood. In the Walter Annenberg series, most of the titles were years and the word "Correspondence" was added by the archivist in addition to dividing several of the years into two or more folders. As much as possible, individual letters and documents were left in the folder in which Mr. Wood filed them which explains why there may be multiple copies of the same document in different files or attached to different pieces of correspondence.
The majority of the material in the collection comes from the period when Al Wood worked with Walter Annenberg to stabilize the financial situation and lay down a new educational focus. This was mainly between 1983-1993. The volume of correspondence demonstrates how much Wood was involved in the day-to-day activities and the various facets of the operation in the earlier years. Once Annenberg was able to aid in brokering the merger with Penn (1992), Wood's and Annenberg's involvement lessened along with the sense of urgency, although Wood continued to be interested and engaged as a member of the Board of Overseers of the institution until 2006.
- Annenberg, Walter H.
- Goldenberg, David
- Dropsie, Moses A., (Moses Aaron)
- Sheldon Hackney
- Meyers, Mary Ann
- Orlinsky, Harry Meyer
- Kaplan, Seymour
- Meyers, Eric M.
- Stevens, Rosemary A.
- Shusterman, Murray
- Lewis, Bernard
- University of Pennsylvania: Archives at the Library of the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies
- Finding Aid Author
- Louise Strauss
- Finding Aid Date
- May 1, 2017