A Message about Dr. Woodie Flowers

Oct 12, 2019




Woodie Flowers at the FIRST Championship

Woodie Flowers at the FIRST Championship.

Dear FIRST® community,

With heavy hearts, we share the sad news that Dr. Woodie Flowers has passed away from medical complications. We extend our deepest condolences to Woodie’s wife, Margaret, and all of his loved ones. He will be greatly missed by the entire FIRST community.

Dr. Woodie Flowers was Co-Chair of the FIRST Executive Advisory Board, Distinguished Advisor to FIRST, and Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Soon after Dean founded FIRST, he and Woodie collaborated on the development of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Woodie was also critical to establishing the ethos of FIRST by coining the term Gracious Professionalism® and nurturing its meaning in his every action.

Throughout the 30 years of FIRST, Woodie has been an incredible supporter of our mission, a friend to everyone he met, and an inspiration to our students, alumni, mentors, volunteers, supporters, and staff. Woodie’s legacy will live on indefinitely through the gracious nature of our community and our ongoing commitment to empowering educators and building global citizens. Our Woodie Flowers Award recipients, past and future, will carry on his legacy as mentors who inspire young people through the art and science of engineering and design.

Woodie’s wife, Margaret, has and will continue to be a key part of the FIRST community. She has graciously asked that those wishing to honor Woodie do so through the Woodie Flowers Memorial Fund.

We invite you to share notes of condolences and reflections about Woodie in a comment on this Inspire blog post, on social media using the hashtag #WoodieFlowers, or on the Memorial Fund page. More information will be available in the coming days and weeks on additional opportunities to celebrate Woodie’s life and legacy.


Dean Kamen, Founder, FIRST

Kelly Ortberg, Co-Chair, FIRST Board of Directors

Bob Tuttle, Co-Chair, FIRST Board of Directors

Don Bossi, President, FIRST

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So sorry to hear we have lost a very special individual. His lessons will be remembered!

Heartbreaking news. We will be forever inspired by Woodie Flowers. I've seen Woodie's message of Gracious Professionalism become embedded in our team and how it becomes ingrained into their very being as they move into their life beyond high school. You did great work Woodie. I'm forever grateful to have your words to inspire our youth. 

I loved Woodie so much. He was always the most elusive one to find at worlds. When I first heard about this I immediately started crying. We love you Woodie and you always be with us.

Thank you Wooddie for inspiring me to do anything that I sure I can & never give up beside of robotics things you teach me how to live. I promise to do the same with other young guys.

I am deeply sadden by this. Woodie has been a great inspiration to me and my family. My brother joined first robotics in 2004 and I joined in 2006. Both my parents joined in 2004/2006. We have met him and he was a wonderful man. Right around the time my father was sick and couldnt voluteer at events he made sure he signed his name and sent healing thoughts to my dad and that made me happy. He will be greatly missed by many.

RIP good Sir! You and Dean have changed the lives of so many over the years!

Carl Hansen

FIRST Mentor and Volunteer since 1994

Team Super 7 is deeply saddened by the sad news of the passing of Dr. Woodie Flowers. He has been a great inspiration for our team members, parents and mentors over the last 10 years. Our deepest condolences to the Flowers family. We will honor his memory by leading our lives with Gracious Professionalism.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Woodie Flowers.

We will miss you very much.

With deepest sympathies to the Flowers family,

FTC Team 7477, Super 7 


Dr. Flowers will be so missed. He was one of the main reasons I got so involved with first. His vision and guidance with graceful professionalism has been inspirational.

Woodie spent an hour with dozens of NYC FIRST kids last Spring at Yankee Stadium talking to them and encouraging them. My son Coby was deeply inspired. We all have reason to keep Woodie’s spirit alive.

I don't think anything could have made me more sad today. Woodie Flowers and his values were the the thing I most loved about FIRST. The world has lost a beautiful soul and a man who represented the very best of human decency. My heartfelt sympathy to Woodie's wife and family. I hope you know how every valued everything he taught was by so many. Rest in Peace, Woodie Flowers and thank you for the many gifts you shared with your FIRST family and the world. #WoodieFlowers

We had the pleasure to meet Woody and speak with him about FIRST, the challenge of urban STEM, life, and education.  Every discussion was an inspiration to continue his work and enlightenment on how to succeed.  He will be missed sorely but will remain a permanent part of our lives.

All three of my kids were inspired to choose engineering careers thanks to FIRST and the efforts of Dr. Flowers. They started in FLL, and then moved to FRC. The skills they learned in each of these programs have been life-changing. My wife and I felt so strongly about the mission of FIRST, that we have coached FLL teams for ten years now. I met Woodie at one of the Colorado Regional competitions. He was very gracious and approachable. I'm glad I had a chance to thank him for all he has done for my kids and for thousands of others. He truly inspired us all.

Woodie was a man who made me believe in the future again. I spent a decade and a half supporting the government in various STEM related positions, and seeing all the "what's in it for me" and "let's make it quick w/o worrying about the future" folk out there. And then I met Dr. Flowers. And he showed me you could make a difference while keeping your integrity and using the fine mind AND heart that God gave you. He is one of the reasons I've dedicated over 12 years to help the next generation of engineers succeed. And I will dedicate future STEM support to his memory. As I stated every time I introduced him at an event: "Here is a man I respect and admire, a man who I would love to grow up to be like, a person who sees what CAN be, if only we keep our eye on the prize." Thank you, Woody. My life is richer because I knew you. And our future is safer because you were here. #WoodieFlowers /patrick

Woodie you will be greatly missed. You have played such as an important role in the lives of so many students and mentors. Thank you for being such a guiding light. 

Our community has lost one of the greatest men of our lifetime. Woodie you will missed. Our hearts go out to your family. Fare the well. May the four winds blow you home.

On behalf of team 7669, Techno R4v7ns,  our most sincere condolences to the wife, relatives and friends of Dr. Flowers.

Undoubtedly, a great person who leaves us an invaluable legacy not only in the promotion of STEM, but also in the practice of human values.

We will miss you so much!

Thank you very much for being part of our lives!


I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Dr Flowers at a district qualifier in Oregon a few years ago. He was so proud of that shirt that the kids had signed. He was the personification of Gracious Professionalism and was so humble and approachable to anyone. It will take all of us to carry on his work. We will miss him so much. #WoodieFlowers

After my kid joined Team 20 three years ago, he jumped into FIRST with enthusiasm. The most inspiring part of the program for me was the Gracious Professionalism ethic so ingrained in every event. As students graduate from FIRST and become adults, they carry that philosophy into their professions. The world needs more GP, and Dr. Flowers' legacy will continue to inspire kindness, partnerships, teamwork, and enthusiasm for tech (and more). Thank you, Woodie! #WoodieFlowers

Woodie inspired me to be a better person. He changed my life. I'm not alone.

Woodie inspired so many. The kids would flock to him. He was a great inspiration to all. His legacy will live on forever. Dance among the angels Woodie!  

i am speechless to hear of the death of Woody... i will forever remember the conversations we have had.. an amazing man and inspiration to everyone he crossed paths with.... you will be missed more than any words can express.  my condolences  to Margaret and the  entire family... 

I have met Woodie a few times over the years, but what stuck in my head was when I went to STL in 2016, from a gift from Cyberknights 195. On the return to CT we were at the airport in STL waiting for our flight Woodie & his wife arrived in the same waiting are. It didn't take long for students to flock around him in glee. He happily signed all kinds of books & t-shirts & listened to stories from students. I was in awe of how he just took it in stride. He was always smiling & kidding with them. He lived his quote,"Gracious Professionalism" Res In Peace Woodie, Aces High 176 will always remember your visits to Suffield Shakedown Scrimmage.



Our whole family was a part of FIRST for over a decade. Woodie was an amazing inspiration to everyone. He had an energy that was absolutely contagious. He really cared about kids. My kids each had personal experiences with him that they will cherish always. My daughter suffered a life-changing injury in an accident at home. When Woodie learned of this, he called my daughter and spoke to her at length and really boosted her moral, it was so deeply appreciated. There will be a very empty place in FIRST without Woodie. We’re thankful for all the memories, experiences and opportunities that FIRST and Woodie brought to our lives. He will truly be missed.  




 It was such an honor to speak with him and learn about all the incredible things he had been involved with. I had an opportunity to visit with him at our first FRC event in Monterey, CA and words are not enough to express the sadness we have in our hearts over this news. -Leti

Dr. Woodie Flowers spent some time at our first ever regional and spoke with one of our Mentors, Leti and had real nice genuine life-experiences to share with her about supporting Christopher in building his #FIRST FIRST Robotics Competition team. We will forever be thankful to his passion of sharing about #STEM. Thank you, #WoodieFlowers for being such an AMAZING individual.

Sebagai The First FIRST team di Indonesia, kami mengenai Woodie hanya dalam waktu baru dua tahun sejak ikut aktif di FIRST Global Challenge 2017,  Namun ide mengenai Gracious profesionalism memberikan kami sebuah gambaran baru mengenai pertandingan,  bertanding bagaikan pro namun tetap berkasih sayang terhadap semua.

Selamat Jalan Woodie, Kami akan terus menyemaikan gracious Profesionalism ini kepada generasi tim FIRST lainnya di Indonesia


A life well lived that will serve as inspiration for many future generations. 

Our condolences to his family and the entire FIRST community. He was truly an exceptional man. Rest In Peace Woodie, your legacy will go on. 

I was privileged to meet Woodie a few times over the years, most recently last season when he came to the Troy MI District event.

I remember one time meeting him in Atlanta when I was a volunteer.  The day before he had visited with our FRC team, and I told him Devin had said he'd never wash that hand again when he got to shake Woodie's hand.  Woodie looked at me with a truly incredulous look on his face, and said something to the effect that he didn't know why the kids revered him that way.

That was the kind of man that he was.  Despite all his successes he kept his humble spirit, and that came across to all those who had contact with him.  He will be truly missed in the FIRST community.

I offer my condolences to Margaret and the whole family.

R.I.P We’ll never forget you.


such an inspirational and loving person, so open, so encouraging to all. I hope that more people can find his gracious professionalism in their hearts. God bless you Woodie!

Even being so far out of FIRST and having changed careers entirely, this hit home a lot harder than I thought it would. Woodie, if you can see this, thank you. You've made so many lives so much better with yours. Fly safe and godspeed.


The world lost a truly inspirational man who made everyone he encountered feel included and welcomed. I was lucky enough to have the chance to meet him at a couple events over the years since 2003. 

Sending my condolences to his family. Woodie was wonderful and will be missed by many. 


I would have thought my kids was looking at a rock star when they were getting woodys autograph thankful for your commitment my son is going i nto mechanical engineering.

He was like a rockstar. To us at least. With the amount of time you spend with your team, FIRST becomes like a second family. A lot of that was because of Woodie bringing that sense of community to all of us. I can go up to anyone who spent time on an FRC team and start trading stories, start a friendship, and a lot of that is thanks to Woodie. He made FIRST what it is, and we all owe a lot to him

I met Woodie once. I got to shake his hand and look him in the eyes. I got to watch countless of his speeches, yet never paid attention and was always bored. I wish now, more than ever, I could see what Woodie was trying to say to us students at Champs for 4 years. His program made me who I am today, inspired me to learn, and completely changed my life. And I wish I could let him keep changing it. Woodie, thank you for everything. Thank you

I feel very honored at this time of sadness to have in my home my Woodie Flowers finalist Award which will always inspire me to work harder with my FRC team. 2Train salutes you!

What a shock to hear that Woodie Flowers is no longer with us.  I've been inspired by his vision of ethical engineering and science and gracious professionalism between colleagues.

Thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. 


My heart goes out to the entire FIRST family. Thank you Woody for inspiring and changing so many lives around globe!!!!!

Woodie was an inspiration.

Woodie began his 2019 Showcase message to the FIRST Communities in Houston and Detroit with the words "we love you."

You can see his message here:

We love you too, Woodie & Margaret.

May all be at peace,
Vince & Jean Wilczynski

Thank you, Woodie. You made an amazing impact on me even though I never met you.

I remember the highlight of every kickoff I watched being Woodie Flowers, from being a Knight of the GDC table to being Super Woodie. Every competition, I always looked forward to the “Good Stuff with Woodie” presentation.

I will remember and cherish your words.

Rest in peace, Dr. Flowers. You will live on in each of us.

Woodie, you will be greatly missed. You inspired so many of us and I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for you and FIRST.

Your loss is felt by many hearts. I am truly grateful for the direct impact you had on my kids with your wisdom and generosity of time and spirit.

Even though I never met Woody Flowers in person, I could tell from the multiple videos I’ve seen of him that he was one of those people who’s smile was contagious. Even if a person was in a funk, being being around Woody would put a smile on their face. We miss you a lot, Woody Flowers. 

Some leaders leave their legacy in the kids they inspire and the big things they are able to accomplish. Thanks for your guidance and inspiration.

Your loss is felt by many hearts. I am truly grateful for the direct impact you had on my kids with your wisdom and generosity of time and spirit.

Ill always remember at the after parties in Atlanta Championships we would always see Woodie visiting with the students and showing them how much he loved working with them while most of the leadership were at dinner. He was a unique individual who sincerely believed in the First mission . First will never be the same. I hope every student who crossed his path can truly appreciate the rare gift he gave all of us. Goodbye Woodie. You changed the culture.

Will dearly miss you.  You touched so many, changing their lives by teaching kindness and Gracious Professionalism. You will always be in our hearts...

No one can replace Woodie Flowers in our hearts and minds.

Let us all do what we can to keep his spirit alive in our hearts and continue to spread his love and message to the world.


Will dearly miss you.  You touched so many, changing their lives by teaching kindness and Gracious Professionalism. You will always be in our hearts...

I saw Woody Flowers in the pits at World Championships several times.  The first time I spotted him, I started to say hello when he was suddenly surrounded with adoring kids.  I saw how excited they were and how genuinely interested, funny and patient he was, and I just couldn't quit smiling. It was better than having met him myself.  From then on, when I saw him in the pits I just stood by, waited for the kids to flock to him, and enjoyed the joy. This mom from FRC GreengineerZ 3452 sends heartfelt condolences to all who were lucky enough to know and love him.  RIP to a man whose life was very well lived.

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