Hugh “Barney” Wood was born in Angola, Indiana on February 18, 1909. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies from the University of Toledo in Ohio in 1931; a Masters in Education from the University of Colorado in 1935; and, a Doctorate in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University in 1937. In 1928 Barney married Helen Launa Croyle. Barney and Helen had two children, Wayne Bernard Wood and Pamela Lynn Wood.
From 1939 to 1974, Barney was a Professor Emeritus of the College of Education at the University of Oregon. He was a specialist in curriculum development, and also participated on local, state, national, and international commissions for curriculum improvement. Representing University of Oregon from 1953 to 1962, Barney served as the chief of the Education Division of U.S. Operations Mission in Nepal, helping to form its national education system. Helen traveled to Nepal with Barney. The couples’ experience in Nepal was recounted in a book written by Barney entitled, Nepal Diary, 1953-1962, published by the American Nepal Educational Foundation in 1987.
Simply reaching Kathmandu was a major accomplishment in itself. The Wood family tried for over a week to fly from Patna to Kathmandu during the 1954 monsoon, the alternative being a four-day journey by bus, truck, train, and foot. For eight successive days they packed up and went to the airport; on four of these days they flew within a vertical mile above Kathmandu, but were unable to land in the sea of clouds. The newly opened Kathmandu airport had no radio service at the time, and the pilot could communicate only with Patna, which had no idea of the depth of the cloud cover in the Kathmandu Valley.
At the time of the Woods’ arrival, USOM offices and residential quarters were located at Kalimati Durbar, a sprawling, white-stucco former Rana palace a few kilometers southwest of downtown Kathmandu. Completed in 1941, the palace was built by Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher Rana for his son, General Rabi Shumshere Rana. USOM moved into the compound upon the first team’s arrival in 1952. Residential quarters were originally in the building which is now the Hotel Management and Tourism Training Center. As new families arrived, more apartments were carved out of the palace’s huge rooms and fitted out with housewares shipped from India or the U.S. Wood wrote that “human servants replaced electric servants”; household staff were abundant, but electrical appliances non-existent or nearly useless, given the erratic electrical supply. Kerosene was used for cooking, heating and lighting – expensive, but supplied by USOM. Kathmandu’s electricity supply was so meager that bulbs were dim until late at night, when the demand had tapered off. Water for bathing had to be heated on the stove. Dr. Wood fashioned a water heater out of an Indian Army surplus soup kettle set over a kerosene heater; a neighbor one-upped him by contriving a solar water heater on the south wall of his apartment.
Procuring food and supplies was a difficult matter, demanding much time. Supplies in the Kathmandu bazaar were quite limited, and practically everything had to be imported from abroad. In a letter to a newcomer, Helen Wood listed over 300 household items to bring. “It is an all-day job keeping house. We cook and bake and keep house much like out grandmothers and great-grandmothers did,” she wrote. Many food items were shipped from India or the U.S., as the locally available fare was limited to eggs, chicken, goat meat and rice. The only fresh produce was potatoes and turnips, and occasionally a bunch of bananas brought in from India. Later, as families moved out of the USOM compound into their own quarters, they planted vegetable gardens, which provided welcome additions to their diets.
Mr. Wood was instrumental in the development of the public school system in Nepal, Vietnam, Malawi, and other foreign nations. His contribution to international goodwill through education was recognized by many countries and organizations.
In 1955, Barney and Helen founded the American Nepal Education Foundation (ANEF) to enhance the education training program then under development in Nepal by the Government of Nepal and the United State Operation Mission. ANEF was incorporated in the State of Oregon in 1955 as a nonprofit public benefit corporation. ANEF helped nearly 400 Nepalese students gain master’s and doctoral degrees in various American universities.
After Barney’s retirement in 1974 the Wood’s moved to Tillamook County in Oregon where they continued to work with the Nepalese. In 1988 the government of Nepal recognized Wood’s long service to Nepal when it awarded him the Birendra Prajnalankar award—the highest honor that Nepal gives to a foreigner. Sadly, Helen died in 1984.
In 1988, Barney established this endowed fund, the Helen & Barney Wood Nepalese Scholarship Fund, to provide scholarships for foreign students from the country of Nepal to study at Oregon State University. Barney died December 10, 1995, in Tillamook, Oregon.