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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my deepest condolences to his family. he was an inspiring person for me. i met him in FIRST championship in Detroit and he was very kind to me

Our sincere condolences from Team Greece. May his soul rest in peace.

Everything our team most aspires to be and to model was inspired by Woodie.
We will miss Woodie dearly, and will endeavor to honor his spirit and his teachings through our actions in the world.

Woodie was a great teacher -- since my undergraduate studies at MIT in the late 1970's  and through many years of visits back to the campus.  It was great to see how the design course 2.70 grew to be adopted at other Universities and to help start FIRST.   Gracious professionalism and having fun with engineering will never go our of style.  And Woodie as the essence of style and fun - long live Woodie Flowers. 

Woodie was whip-smart, articulate, kind, generous, humble and a visionary. He also had a great sense of humor. In conversation, he made you feel like your voice was valued. His amazing legacy is the tens of thousands of students, mentors, and volunteers he touched with his words and actions and we all loved him back for it. We are all blessed that he made such a difference in the world and shared his life and light with us. My heart aches for Margaret.

This saddens me to the point of tears! Woodie was such an inspiration to our younger generation. FIRST has been life changing for this family (and many others I’m sure)! He will be missed by too many to count. Rock on FIRST teams, in memory of Woodie, give it your best during the upcoming season and make him proud as he watches over you all from above!

We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Dr. Woodie Flowers. The BAE Systems family would like to extend our condolences to Dr. Flowers’ wife, Margaret and his entire family during this difficult time. Dr. Flowers’ commitment and vision of the FIRST Robotics competition has paved the way for future generations of tech leaders. These leaders have and will continue to apply the skills they’ve learned through FIRST Robotics to change the world in a positive way. Dr. Flowers coined the term “gracious professionalism,” and this is one of the many values the FIRST Robotics instills in its students that sets the stage for successful careers.

Our goals will remain the same, to foster tomorrow’s innovators, leaders, and creative problem solvers. BAE Systems will honor Dr. Flowers' legacy by continuing to support the next generation of tech leaders through organizations that use meaningful and collaborative experiences like FIRST Robotics.


BAE Systems

I knew Woodie as a neighbor and fellow educator. When I walked my dog through his backyard each day, he never failed to inspire and amuse. One Thanksgiving he put birdseed in the driveway in the shape of a turkey with a cross out line through it. Another time he said, Margaret says, “ You’ve done enough. MIT never says this!” He loved his family and his work, and had a soul that touched us all. RIP

My heart goes out to the family of Dr. Woody Flowers. We are so sorry for your loss. Woody always recognized and acknowledged that the kids were "FIRST". He will be missed. Respectfully, Helen L. Arrington and FRC Team 604 Quixilver

On behalf of FTC Team 9829 we would like to thank you, Dr. Woodie Flowers, for all of your work and your message across the world. We were so lucky to have met you several times at the FIRST World Champs in Houston, and every time we've felt incredibly inspired from interacting with you. You will missed very dearly, and we will continue to serve the FIRST community that you have contributed so much to!

He will be missed, but will live on!

Thank you for supporting FIRST Alum, students, and volunteers and allowing us to shape the future of the program which you helped to create. Your kindness allowed me to find confidence in myself as a young women in STEM to take a stand for what I believe in, and truly pursue a field for myself - not for anyone else. 

I love and appreciate you for everything you've done.

Katlin Walsh - FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1374 Lead Mentor

You will be missed by the entire FIRST community!
Through your example you taught a generation of young people and the adults that guide them to be fair, understanding and to treat each other with Gracious Professionalism despite our differences!
You and Dean brought to life a program that allowed a generation to dream and learn how to make the world a better place! May it continue for many more generation to come!
You will always be in our hearts!!
Thank you for all that gave us!!
Carl Auchenbaugh, Mentor CI-Borgs Team #4006

The world lost one of the most influential people in a generation. I met Woody back in 2003 when I was in NYC at the Pyobots (then Pirate Bots) Fisrt ever Regional. We had the saddest little bot, I was a new teacher feeling way overwhelmed especially after my kids shorted a battery and set our pit on fire. He pulled me aside and told me that it's not about the Robot. Not about wins or losses. He stood me back and told me to take a minute and look at my kids in the pit. Despite everything going wrong on the field, they were engaged, communicating, there was clear leadership from my Captains, each Kid had a role and they were smiling. He said "that's why Dean and I are doing this" That same year he presented my Kids an award in front of thousands of people at the Nationals in Atlanta. That was another wonderful disaster know forever as the "One Day Wounder" that only FIRST Kids could ever pull off. I have dedicated my life to the principles of FIRST Robotics. I have Created three Teams with over a thousand students mentored since that crazy Rookie All Star year. One of My kids recently became Woody's student at MIT. Woody, I am forever grateful for continuing to be my mentor and friend. You always took the time to stop by my Pit and cheer my Kids on, and take a million selfies with them. Thank You for making my career rewarding and fun. Rest easy Brother, we will take it from here.

 Gracious Professionalism set you apart from your peers and sets FIRST apart from other educational programs.  You will be dearly missed, but your legacy shall live on in all those you’ve inspired to be better human beings. 


Hard to believe he's gone. I just saw him at the Monterey Regional. My favorite memory of him as award MC at the Epcot Champs where he wore a tux and rollerblades. I saw him backstage just before the ceremony, preparing to go on. He was so focused on making the presentation perfect. I was so impressed at his concentration level. Not only was he an inspiration to the FIRST students, but to his peers as well.

I have a friend who was suicidal shortly after we graduated high school. In 2014, he got involved with FIRST. He spoke highly of Dr. Flowers, and said he was a face of light and positivity. FIRST helped my friend find a direction in life. He started getting more involved with the world around him again. I've never met Dr. Flowers, but I appreciate him for silently being a part of my friend's healing and growth as a person in what was a really dark time. Dr. Flowers, your legacy is in your students! I will appreciate and celebrate that you lived by buying that friend a drink next time I see him. Thank you for a life well dedicated.

Woody is indeed an inspiration and true hero for our children (their parents) and communities. While I started supporting FIRST recently, Woody's ethos was always at the forefront and a main reason why I continued. While it is a sad time for most, when one has been touched by such an inspirational and real person, memories never die. Thanks to his family for letting Woody share his dream with the world he truly believed in and loved. He is already in God's hands.

Woodie Flowers was instrumental in my starting Team #5841, The Patriots, at Governor Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, Maryland.

His beliefs are at the core of our program. His continuously modeling those beliefs, and his interaction with students by fueling their curiosity certainly inspired me. I wonder if he realized he was also giving the students truly positive guidelines by which to run their adult lives. I know his reach will continue far into the future by everyone he has touched. My focus will be to continue his legacy through our team. Woody, I thank you sincerely, and so do my kids,

It was with great sadness that I heard of Woody's passing.  I had the opportunity to chat with him on several occasions and hear his inspirational words on education and the value of what we do with FIRST.  As the mind behind Gracious Professionalism and many other FIRST precepts, his guidance and vision will be sorely missed.  Nonetheless, the rest of us will need to go beyond ourselves to help fill the void left by this incredible person's untimely exit from the field.  He will be missed...

I had a 5 min conversation with Woodie and got to shake his hand at the Boston FRC competition when I was in high school. He was one of those amazing people who made it feel like you had all the time in the world to talk during a short conversation, and he loved hearing about the control systems for our robot.

Such a wonderful man -- "Gracious Professionalism" personified. Woodie always led and taught by example and with a marvelous sense of humor. His lab coat, signed every year by students at Competition, was near and dear to his heart.  Rest in Peace you've helped inspire another generation (including women!) to be like you.


Hi Woodie. My name is Avi, and we met for the first time at the 2019 FIRST World Championship in Detroit. I have been a part of this wonderful FIRST community for the past six years and I just wanted to say two words: thank you. Thank you for everything that you have taught me and thousands of other kids about Gracious Professionalism and inspiring us to constantly reach new heights in the fields that we want to go into. You will be in all of our hearts, and I give my most sincere condolences to your family and friends. Thank you, Mr. Woodie Flowers. 


Dear Woodie, 

You hallmark phrase "Gracious Professionalism"  has inspired positive change in the hearts of thousands! We are so grateful for the work and commitment that you gave to FIRST- you will be missed. Heartfelt condolences to your family, friends and colleagues and all who had the distinct honor of meeting you personally.

FTC Team #11149, LAB RATS, Houston TX

Our sympathy to Margaret and the family.  Woody and I met at ME271 and ME270 where we were privileged to donate parts for his class for the competition.  Then we met again in the beginning years of  FIRST where we again were able to work with teams that were inspired by him to be the best they can be in all aspects of life.   I and my company are grateful to have met and worked with him for over 40 years!

Good people die everyday.  Yet not all of them affirm for us the goodness in humanity and leadership the way Woodie did.  He passed away last week and left a legacy of positive experiences for anyone who took the time to know him – which wasn’t a hard thing to do.


Even though many members of PrepaTec community didn’t get to know Woodie personally, all of us can learn from his legacy.


Let us all celebrate his life.

He inspired so many. He inspired me. God Bless Woodie 

Dr. Flowers was by far the most inspirational of the professionals I have ever worked with, especially 18 years ago when I briefly worked at FIRST. He was exemplary of a life mission perfectly coinciding with his work. He was both a light instead of a judge, and a model instead of a critic. Dean Kamen chose very wisely, because without Woodie's influence and guidance, FIRST may never have taken off as it did.

When I heard from many on Sunday morning that Woodie had passed I was profoundly and deeply saddened. I had not realized myself until those moments how much Woodie had influenced me personally and so many in our Pennsylvania FTC community and our mission, which is wonderfully in alignment with everything Woodie represented. This is not so much because of our obligation to FIRST, but because of the passion that drives us and truly emulated The Man! It's about the kids!

Now as I read the hundreds of condolences and heart warming memories I realize that Woodie is not only with us, but he is part of everyone who had the wonderful privilege of sharing his love of life! He lives on within all he touched. Thank You Woodie!

Margaret, thank you for allowing the tens of thousands who got to know you both for being a part of your family. Will always be grateful.

Our world lost a truly inspiring man. I am truly grateful for the direct impact Woodie had on my kids. I am lucky enough to have met him and experienced his passion for inspiring so many students and parents.  We are going to miss you Woodie. Thanks for your guidance and inspiration.

Farewell to a true inspirational hero. Our world is a brighter and more hopeful place because of the kindness and leadership of Dr. Flowers. Condolences to his family. Please know there are millions around the world that mourn his passing. Never doubt that one person can change the world. Woodie did just that.

FIRST Team 1885, ILITE Robotics, would like to join the entire FIRST community in extending our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Woodie Flowers. His passing is a significant loss for FIRST Robotics, as well as for the world at large. Dr. Woodie Flowers understood, like most celebrated leaders, that he could inspire people to dream big. What made him a visionary, however, is HOW he inspired people. Dr. Woodie Flowers was one of the rare few who realized that by showing genuine kindness and interest in peoples ideas he could light an inextinguishable fire within them, a fire that burned so brightly they were compelled to chase and conquer their dreams. Since our inception, Woodie has been an incredible friend and inspiration to the mentors, students, and alumni of our team. He succeeded in lighting inextinguishable fires within each of us to chase our dreams and pursuit of STEM and implement gracious professionalism. We hope we are able to carry on his legacy by cultivating that fire in the next generation. Rest In Peace Dr. Flowers.

 From classmate and friend roaming North Jena launching home-made rockets, to the days of toil at Louisiana Tech, Woodie was an amazing story getting to MIT. The rest is well documented. You were blessed if you met him as so many of these comments document. "Margie," we share in your loss.

May I share a word Woodie oft used  in closing his personal messages in our days together;

MARANATHA  - which was an expression of greeting, encouragement, and triumphant faith we can use to influence those around us ... just like Woodie did so well. 

Dr. Woodie and Dean had a huge impact on my life and many others through FIRST. It was a major factor that led me to my current career in engineering. I was lucky enough to run into Woodie recently at an airport where we were on the same flight and had some time to chat. We talked about my current and past engineering positions along with our mutual hobbies/interests like scuba diving (I was returning from a scuba diving trip) and photography. He shared some amazing photos that his wife had taken of hummingbirds that were very impressive. It was a great conversation and I was able to thank him for FIRST and about how big an effect it had on my life. Woodie, you will be dearly missed. Thank you

Team 60 extends their deepest condolences to the family of Woodie Flowers as well as his FIRST Family. Dr. Flowers' impact reached way beyond FIRST. Our students and mentors who had the privilege over the years to meet and speak with Dr. Flowers as well as just hear his inspirational speeches will forever be touched. We will continue to pass along his legacy for generations to come. He was inspirational not only within the engineering fields but a true humanitarian. His words of wisdom impacted more lives than he could ever imagine and will continue with the mentors who have accepted and embellish his beliefs in their leadership of up and coming young engineers, teachers, medical professionals and productive citizens. May you, his wife, family, friends and associates know that he may have left us physically, but his flame, enthusiasm and youthful inspiration remain with us in our hearts, minds and souls. Rest in peace Woodie. You will be missed but never forgotten.

He helped to make a better ME, a better YOU, and collectively a better US. A noble pursuit we should all strive for in his honor. 



Our team first met Dr. Flowers at a regional in Ventura County. We were rookies that year, yet he went out of his way to speak to the team and be photographed with them. By his words and deeds, he set high standards for us all.

It hurt hearing this news. Woodie Flowers had such a profound impact on my life, and the lives of so many of my friends. I fondly remember him coming to MC my first ever regional event (Zone Zeal -- SBPLI). We gave him a team labcoat that he wore throughout the weekend! His philosophy of gracious professionalism and cooperatition both play such a significant role in how I conduct myself now as an adult -- compete your hardest, give it all you got, but make sure you're helping others rise with you.


The world has lost a guiding light, but his legacy will live on in the hundreds of thousands of lives he touched through FIRST.

My heart is truly saddened by the loss of Dr. Woodie Flowers.  I have been involved in F.I.R.S.T. as a parent and Team Mentor since FRC Team 5214 came into existence in 2014, Aerial Assist, makes me think of how far we have come since then.  On behalf of the Mighty Cavbots, team 5214 SCS south Lake Schools, All Team members, mentors and parents past and present I wish to extend our sincerest Heartfelt condolences to the Flowers family and to the FRC family that he wonderfully inspired.  Godspeed and Gracious Professionalism Woodie.

In May I had the pleasure of taking Woodie out to dinner the night before he was to talk at Columbia University and then join the 2 Train, team 395, to be honored on the field at Yankee Stadium the following evening. What an honor to host Woodie for dinner and we later found out that Woodie had never been to a baseball game.  I am honored to have been able to experience that.  What an impact Woodie made during his life and number of individuals he touched is too large to contemplate.  We will miss you.

I was on vacation when I heard of Dr. Woodie Flowers' passing and was speechless for quite some time. I can’t envision thinking about X-Cats without thinking of FIRST, and I can’t envision thinking about FIRST without thinking about Dean & Woodie. I can’t count the number of times that I took one of our students around to get a picture with, or autograph from, Woodie.  

Words cannot express how ecstatic my daughter was when she took a picture with Woodie and Dean to cap off her senior year and build upon her truly lifelong journey with FIRST. Woodie always had these unequivocal ideologies that inspired people, yet he was the humblest rock star that one would ever meet. He coined the term "Gracious Professionalism" that is used internationally, and the FIRST community, as well as the greater community, is a better place for it. 

Woodie will be missed, but his ideologies are everlasting. I strongly believe that the X-Cats held a special place in Woodie’s heart, and I know for sure that he held a special place in ours. Our thoughts and prayers are with his biological family, as well as his FIRST family. May Woodie’s kind-spirited heart live on forever! 

~ DaTwan Dixon

Although I am one of many who have won the Woodie Flowers award, if you combined us all together we would fall far short of filling his shoes. We should be honored to have known him.

Gracious professionalism and coopertition. Unlimited energy and passion. 

Roller skates and tuxedo.  An inspiration to us all.  Tears for today, and smiles for the memories.

I am so glad that I had an opportunity to meet Woody in person at First Championship in Houston this year along with my team(Thunderbots from California). Woody is truly a "Force for Change" in having inspired so many young kids like me that we can actually change the world and "have fun" doing it! The core values of gracious professionalism and coopertition that he has imbibed in us will be his lasting legacy and we pledge to pay it forward!

Our team 386 met with Woodie many times over the years and I personally know how many of our students and mentors he made a positive impression on. I was shocked to hear of his unexpected passing. His force in FIRST reached so many levels and will be missed but forever remembered.

I met Dr. Flowers at Detroit in 2019. What a man! A truly inspirational person. Dr. Flowers together with Mr. Dean Kamen have created this amazing organization called FIRST who has inspired us to get further involved with robotics. RIP Dr. Flowers.

FTC Team Epiteugma Revved Up 13906 and FGC Team Cyprus

This was a video we put together in 2017 to say thank you to Dr. Woodie.    He always takes for the students as shown by this this video.  What a wonderful person !!!

FRC Team 316 LUNATECS wishes to express our deepest sympathy to the Family of Woodie Flowers, including his FIRST family. Woodie was a man who bridged the gap between generations. Teens and young adults loved him, admired him, and held him in high esteem, because he believed the best of them and they could sense his sincerity. His passing is a loss, but his legacy will continue to influence the minds and hearts of many, and their actions will continue to carry the torch, inspiring the future and transforming the culture around us.

Woodie has touched the lives of many people whether they be students or adults.  I have only met him once and that was when our team went to Disney World for the National competition back in 2001.  He has inspired me to stay as a mentor for 21 years and I love working with the students.  We shall miss you in body but not spirit.


Woody was one of the top ten people that I have ever met. His concern with people was extraordinary.  I will miss him.

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