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Wood Swim Scholarship to benefit SBU swim program

From left to right: Karen Buchheit, CRCF Executive Director, Mary Lou and Paul Wood and swim coach Sean McNamee.

As with many of life’s decisions, Paul and Mary Lou Wood’s choice to establish a scholarship fund for St. Bonaventure University swimmers was one influenced both by nostalgia and friendship.

The Woods remembered taking advantage of open faculty swims in the St. Bonaventure pool after Paul joined the French department as a professor in 1971.

“All four of our kids swam here [in the Bonaventure pool],” Mary Lou Wood remembered.  “Every Sunday they came to the faculty swim. All of the faculty, and all of the faculty that had kids, came here, and they met each other and swam together and just had a fantastic time.”

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During the summer, she said, the family swam in the pool almost every day. The Wood children also attended SBU swim coach John Skehan’s summer swim camps.

“Three of our four children swam in college. Two at St. Lawrence and one at Notre Dame,” Mary Lou Wood said. “And because they all swam here, they all gravitated towards continuing.”

But for the Woods, the decision to establish the fund was about more than swimming.

“This is a good way to give back to Bonas,” Mary Lou Wood said. “Bonaventure has opened many doors for us and for our kids.

“The faculty and the kids from those families were all close,” she added. “Bonas was just a community, and the kids grew through it, and they’re all highly successful now. It is all because of what they had and what Bonaventure and the Olean community gave them.”

The Paul and Mary Lou Wood Swim Scholarship Fund will provide a scholarship to members of the men’s and women’s swim teams at St. Bonaventure University, with the award alternating between the men’s team and women’s team.

The Woods established the scholarship fund as an endowment so that it may provide scholarships in perpetuity through the life of the fund.

The head men’s swim team coach and head women’s swim coach shall have the discretion in selecting the recipient each year depending on the rotation.

The student recipient should have and maintain a 3.0 GPA. Recipients are eligible to receive the scholarship for four years.

St. Bonaventure head men’s swim coach Sean McNamee said the potential positive impact of the scholarship is significant.

“The gift is immense. We are competitive in our conference, but obviously resources are a key component to remaining so,” said McNamee. “Additional resources allow us to recruit another competing, participating, scoring, A-10 caliber participant on our team, which increases our depth, which is one of our Achilles’ heels.”

“This gives an opportunity for another individual to join a program that’s been very special for coming up on 70 years now,” said McNamee.

Mary Lou Wood said that the scholarship is a way to give back to a program she and her husband respect—made even more special as one to celebrate McNamee’s 25 years as head men’s swim coach.

“It is a program we understand and respect,” she said. “He’s very good at motivating kids and his program speaks for itself.”

“I was just saying to Sean that the [pool] deck here just feels right,” she remarked. “He said when he comes back from trips to other pools that his feet hurt because the contours are different. This deck just feels right.”

Thanks to the Wood Swim Scholarship, future Bonaventure swimmers will have the chance to call the same deck and pool home.

Donations can be made to the Paul and Mary Lou Wood Swim Scholarship Fund at CRCF, 301 North Union Street, Suite 203 or online at

Established in 1994, the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation is growing good by connecting donors to the causes they care about most in the region. Grants from the foundation support many areas, including education, scholarships, health care, the arts, community development, human service, and youth development. To learn more, call (716) 301-CRCF (2723), email, or visit online at CRCF is also on Facebook ( and Twitter (@CattFoundation).

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