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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I was privileged to work with FIRST for six years as the Affiliate Partner of Pennsylvania.  During that time I had the opportunity to talk one on one with Woodie several times.  I found him to be a genuine, warm and compassionate man whose ethos matched my own.  I had just shown my team 10490 FTC the video on Gracious professionalism at our meeting yesterday.  The video featured Woodie.  He will be sorely missed, but I am confident that his philosophy will live on.  God will open his arms to you Woodie and yours will be another voice singing the Lord's praise around the throne today.

Woodie gave so much to this community. He will be sorely missed. Those who found inspiration in his life's work will no doubt pay it forward through FIRST and everything they touch. Deepest condolences to his family and his FIRST family.

I've been a mentor for FIRST fo 22 years. When I started  I didn't think I would have lasted this long in the organization but each year Woody and Dean kicked off the season they gave their speeches on the relevance of FIRST and why it was increasingly important that the values it fostered and the opportunities it provided for students, mentors, and volunteers to make a difference in the world be continued and expanded. Woody was a true educator and the lessons for success he taught are universal and hopefully will always be the guiding light for the FIRST organization.

Will miss him.  He was an inspiration.  Woody was my professor back in the MIT 2.70 design contest course that preceded FIRST, and he was s true rock star and as much an inspiration then as later in FIRST.  He's one of the people that truly inspired my career.  He will be missed for the beautiful person he was.  He leaves a legacy of lives changed including my own.

We lost the rock in rock star in our FIRST family, but woodie's gracious presence will always be with us thru his lessons and smiles in the woodie less world.

We and our future generations will be eternally thankful for your gracious contributions woodie! So long Rock Star !! So long!! 

Heartbreaking. FIRST and Woodie changed my life. 

I will always remember traveling to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, for the first time witnessing a robotics event. What an event! My eldest son had been with Team 703 from Saginaw, MI and they had won the Regional event in Michigan, allowing the team to get funding to make the big trip to World's. The team flew and my daughter and I drove. During the intense completion my daughter, then 11 years old, slipped away from my side which sent me into a panic to find her. Woody Flowers just happened to be near by and helped me to get security alerted to locate her. The kind man in the tuxedo... I, being a true novice to the history of the robotics environment my son was so fully immersed, had no idea who it was that was helping me until later.  We found my daughter in the Pit area, where her eldest brother's team was working on their robot for the next match. It was then my eldest informed me that I had been helped by Dr. Flowers.  God's peace kind co-founder of the best learning sport I have ever seen. We continue as a family to be involved in FIRST events, even as my son is now a mentor to the robotics team in Hemlock, MI, well beyond his high school years.


Woody graciously accepted my invitation for coffee one off-season morning a few years ago. Among the many memorable things he said that day, he gave me a message to pass along to the FLL team I coach. He told me to tell them, congratulations, they're going to have successful lives. The question, he said, was how they will bring 10, 100, 1000 more people along with them. It forever reframed in my mind what we are all doing as we play our small parts in FIRST and in the world. I delivered his message to our team, and to every FIRST participant I've met since. Thanks, Woody, for the impact you had on me, my children, and on our global community.

I remember meeting you at the FTC Championship in Detroit. I remember when you shook my hand as you congratulated us for winning our award. Thank you for everything you have done. Your philosophy will live on forever. 

Great man. Great legacy. 

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