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Calhoun dean Leslie Woodard
dies unexpectedly at 53

Leslie Woodard was a professional dancer, a writer, a teacher, an equestrian, and—since 2007—the dean of Calhoun College. Now, after her sudden death at age 53, Woodard is also a memory for the Yalies whose lives she touched.

Woodard died yesterday at her home in Calhoun, Yale College Dean Mary Miller ’81PhD wrote in an e-mail to the Yale community, adding: "We do not yet know what has happened, but it appears that she died of natural causes."

Coming "from a family of mathematicians and scientists," Woodard spent 10 years with the Dance Theater of Harlem before earning her bachelor's degree at Columbia University and an MFA from New York University. She then directed Columbia's undergraduate creative writing program.

At Yale, Woodard taught an introductory fiction-writing course and "was instrumental in the founding of Freshman Scholars at Yale, a five-week program launched this summer designed to ease the transition from high school to college for approximately 30 incoming freshmen," according to the Yale Daily News.

Students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Calhoun courtyard last night to remember Woodard against a backdrop of Motown music and blue-and-white lights.

"To Dean Woodard, we members of Calhoun were not just her students—we were her children," Emily Klopper ’15 writes in the Yale Daily. "She took us in as freshmen and called us her 'babies.' . . . During finals she told us that everything would be OK, that our teachers were not evil and that the world was not going to end. She . . . warned us against the punch at fraternity parties and advised us, 'ginger ale will always be your best friend.' After her candlelight vigil Monday night, my classmates and I toasted to her with cups of ginger ale."

Survivors include a sister, Laurie Woodard ’07PhD, and a sheepdog, Jimmy Dean.

This post was updated on October 17 to correct an error about Woodard's master's degree, which came from New York University.

Filed under Leslie Woodard, Calhoun College
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