Woodruff First to Receive All Three Degrees from JSU

Dr. Royce Woodruff
Innovative Emergency Management

Royce Woodruff’s career has been defined by knowing the right moment to turn on the TV news. Call it fate, destiny or coincidence. Either way, those who know him have learned to call him something else – Doctor. 

Royce Woodruff in front of Angle Hall at JSU

"From day one, JSU felt like home. JSU totally lives up to that motto of 'Friendliest Campus in the South.' "

-- Royce Woodruff

In May 2018, he was awarded a doctoral degree in emergency management from JSU, becoming the first student to earn all three degrees – bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate – from the university.

Woodruff arrived on campus from his home in Gainesville, Ga. in 1990. The moment his father dropped him off at Weatherly Hall, he knew he belonged.

“From day one, JSU felt like home,” he said “JSU totally lives up to that motto of ‘Friendliest Campus in the South.’ I honestly can’t remember ever having a bad day.”

Royce Woodruff
Royce Woodruff

Woodruff graduated in 1994 with a degree in sociology. He was living in Atlanta, working in IT, when he turned on the news on Sept. 11, 2001, and watched live as the hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Were it not for his wife and kids, he would have joined the Army. Instead, he decided to go back to JSU to get his master’s degree in emergency management. “I felt like I needed to give back,” he said.

The timing was perfect as JSU had just launched its MPA program in emergency management. Because the courses were offered online, he was able to study and work at the same time. He graduated in July 2004. By August, he was working with FEMA, assisting with cleanup in Florida, which had been devastated by a series of hurricanes.

Woodruff specializes in disaster recovery, assisting communities with rebuilding. “It’s great coming into a situation where people and things are broken and helping fix that,” he said. “I know the things we do are going to last a lifetime.”

In 2010, JSU became the first university in the Southeast and one of only four in the nation to offer a Doctorate in Emergency Management. He enrolled, but before he became Dr. Woodruff, he was going to have to put his education to use in the last place he imagined. On March 19, 2018, he was working with Innovative Emergency Management, a private consulting firm, assisting with the Hurricane Harvey recovery in Texas, when he turned on the TV and saw the morning news coverage of the EF-3 tornado that had hit his alma mater.

“I totally freaked out,” he said. “It felt like someone had just broken into my home. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. I wanted to take all the knowledge and tools that I’d gotten from my experiences and use those to help JSU.”

As luck would have it, JSU actually hired IEM to help with its recovery, allowing him to personally supervise what can only be considered a rebirth.

JSU's first EM doctoral cohort, pictured with JSU administrators and faculty
JSU's first Emergency Management doctoral cohort, pictured with JSU administrators and faculty in 2012.

“When it’s all over, JSU is going to come out of all of this better and stronger,” he said. “It will be state-of-the-art in every way possible, which will help to attract better faculty and even more students. It will truly transform the campus.”

Woodruff was awarded his doctorate from JSU at the May 2018 ceremony – when the entire graduating class gathered in JSU Stadium for the first commencement since the tornado. After graduating, he donated $500 towards an annual scholarship for the emergency management doctoral program.

While he’s proud of being the first alumnus to receives all three degrees from JSU, with the addition of a second doctorate on campus – the Doctor of Nursing Practice – Dr. Woodruff knows he won’t be the last to accomplish this feat.

“Oh, there will be others,” he said.

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