Student Spotlight

Mark Woods posthumously awarded bachelor’s degree

May 17, 2016
Maribel Woods

Maribel Woods accepts her late husband’s diploma.

Maribel Woods spent much of Saturday’s Northern Commencement holding back tears and yet still smiling gratefully.

Her husband, Mark Wood, was her rock, she said, and she continues to feel his presence even after his untimely death earlier this year. Brandman University awarded his bachelor’s degree posthumously, and Maribel accepted it on stage as other family members looked on from their seats in Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium.

“I feel like I owe it to him to be strong,” she said, adding that he was always the one to encourage her to try everything from skiing to starting a business together.


Maribel Woods and her family look over the diploma awarded posthumously to Mark Woods.

They met when they were both working at AAA. He had never completed college but after taking early retirement when AAA reorganized and outsourced its repair shops, he decided it was time to earn his Bachelor’s in Business Administration (B.B.A.). He enrolled at Brandman’s Fairfield campus where he quickly became a staff favorite, said Linda Montenegro, campus director for Fairfield and Travis.

“We just loved him,” said Pat Biewlawski, a One Stop specialist at the campus, one of several people who encouraged him to finish working on his degree even when he decided to end his “retirement” and open his own repair shop with Maribel.

He was close to both completing his degree and expanding his business when he died suddenly during a ski trip to Heavenly Valley on April 2.

“Thankfully he didn’t suffer,” said Maribel, who described Mark as a happy person, full of energy and always an outdoor person. In their last phone conversation, the 50-year-old talked about what a beautiful day it was, even if the snow was a little soft.

She has relied on the support of her family, friends and a deep faith to get through this difficult period, comforted by knowing that death came peacefully at a place he loved.

“I am very grateful to Brandman for making every effort to support me and honor his diploma,” she said. “It’s been a very emotion day. Very sweet and bitter. I am so heartbroken but still grateful to have had him for 25 years. I know he wants me to be strong until we meet again in heaven.”

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