GTN advisor, much loved Stanford

William F. Woo

professor, dies

By John McManus and Michael Stoll
Posted April 13, 2006

Grade the News lost a friend and guiding spirit Wednesday when Bill Woo succumbed to cancer. More importantly, the Bay Area, indeed the world, lost one of its most insightful journalists and educators.

Cordovan penny loafers, unpressed slacks, a navy sweater over a button down shirt loose at the collar. That was Bill's uniform in the halls of Stanford University's communication department.

For a man who was advising Eastern Europeans on the workings of a free press in Montenegro one week, and a week later in Hong Kong sharing insights with Chinese journalists, Bill was surprisingly unassuming and approachable. Department Chairman Jim Fishkin phrased it perfectly in the Mercury News this morning: "In a world of ambitious careerist people, he was a nurturer."

Bill was an uncommonly gentle, thoughtful and principled man, whose dignity was infectious. We worked alongside Bill for two years, constantly running into him in the hallway or in the Grade the News office, where he'd pop in to offer advice that often saved us from embarrassment as we tackled sensitive and complicated ethical quandaries.

Bill liked to turn an issue in a dozen different directions -- like a jeweler examining the facets of a gemstone -- before arriving at a conclusion. He had the clarity of insight only gained by paying careful attention over a lifetime.

He was as ancient as the classical masters and as modern as string theory.

Today we are grieving, yet enormously grateful for Bill's generosity of intellect and heart. We entrusted Bill with our most difficult questions about journalism and never regretted following his suggestions.

You can sign a guest book for Bill Woo at the Mercury News.