A native of Stewartsville, Virginia, Robert Clisson Woods attended public schools and Virginia Theological Seminary and College. He presided over Williams University in Baltimore, Maryland, and was pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Staunton, Virginia. He was elected president of the Seminary in 1911 and served until 1926.
Woods’ administration was characterized by expansion. Three new buildings were added: Fox Hall, a women’s dormitory; Graham Hall, the dining room and kitchen; and Humbles Hall, the administration building. Woods was also responsible for seeing that the debt for the original building was paid.
It is said that the Seminary reached its peak during Woods’ tenure. The school was accredited as a college, and the School of Religion was upgraded to a theological seminary. Woods’ most important legacy may have been the promotion of liberal arts as opposed to industrial training for African Americans.