Legacy Rugby Match

Some traditions just get better with time. So it was with the 30th annual John C. Wood Jr.’76 Tournament, held Nov. 3, 2012, at the Baker Athletic Complex under crisp, blue skies.

The P&S Rugby Football Club, celebrating its 40th anniversary, faced aspiring MBAs from the New York University Stern Rugby Club and Old Blue, a semi-professional team founded by undergraduate alumni of Columbia College. 

“Rugby is a pretty big part of my life and the lives of a lot of the guys who come out and play,” says former rugby club president H. Paco Kang, a second-year student. “There’s a real camaraderie, a brotherhood among the guys who play.”

That brotherhood—among players on the only intercollegiate athletic team fielded by P&S—made honoring the late Dr. Wood all the more compelling, says Mr. Kang. “P&S Rugby was founded 40 years ago in 1972 by John Wood Jr., almost immediately upon his arrival at P&S,” Mr. Kang wrote in an e-mail he sent to the players a few weeks before the tournament. “Like any new team, they initially sucked, but by ’75 they were in full beast mode and won the Metropolitan New York Rugby Football Union championship. The Club has persisted since, in more or less the exact same way it was when it began—a bunch of dudes getting together for some good times and violent victories.”

In addition to myriad current students, those cheering the club to victory during the 2012 tournament included 1976-77 club captain Frank Lowe’79, now professor of clinical urology at P&S, who played with Dr. Wood during their medical school days. “John was out there having fun with the rest of us,” Dr. Lowe recalls of their mustachioed days on the paddock. “He was an accomplished musician. He had bad knees, so he wasn’t the best of athletes, but he certainly played hard.” Other VIPs on the sidelines for the tournament included Diana Wood’88, widow of the tournament’s namesake, her late husband’s father, John Chase Wood’49, her son, John Wood III, and her grandson, John Wood IV. “To have the family come out,” says Mr. Kang, “was a really big deal.”

Tristan Hunt’15, the club’s former vice president and match secretary, organized the tournament, held annually since Dr. Wood’s murder in 1981. John Wood III, born just a few months after his father’s death, had never attended a P&S rugby match; Mr. Hunt invited him to initiate play with the tournament kickoff and present the tournament trophy at its conclusion (to Old Blue). “Across P&S, there’s an idea that extracurricular activities and the interests you have beyond medicine complete the school and complete us as individuals,” says Mr. Hunt. “John Wood Jr. embodied that spirit of P&S as a student and emulated it as a doctor.”