Majors

‘Big Al’ Woodill, Who Helmed AGS for 4 Decades, Dies at 101

MajorsAug 19, 2021

‘Big Al’ Woodill, Who Helmed AGS for 4 Decades, Dies at 101

He had a passion for AGS that helped it grow into the respected association it is today.

Al Woodill, who served as executive director of AGS for 40 years, died Aug. 16 at age 101.
Las Vegas—Alfred Woodill, who served as executive director of the American Gem Society for 40 years and is credited with growing it into the strong organization it is today, died Aug. 16 at the age of 101. 
 
Known to many as “Big Al” or “Mr. AGS,” the latter of which he was first called in 1972 by then-president Bill Argo, Woodill was a man of great talent with a passion and love for the society. 
 
The California native was the nephew of AGS founder Robert M. Shipley’s wife, Beatrice. He worked for the Shipleys during high school and later while he attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business in 1946. 
 
He took time off from being a student at UCLA to serve as a bomber pilot in World War II, rising to the rank of captain in the Army Air Corps. 
 
Early in his career, Woodill traveled with Shipley to sell GIA courses, promote the AGS, and attend the organization’s Conclave events. And since he knew shorthand, he’d write articles as Shipley dictated them while they were taking long car trips. 
 
In 1947, he took over as Shipley’s successor, joking that his first job in the role at a Conclave event was to “have a metal box and sell lunch tickets.” 
 
Woodill is credited with transforming the society into the association it is today. 
 
“We are all heartbroken at the loss of this great man, who was so instrumental in shaping the American Gem Society. Mr. Woodill was a direct link for many of us to Robert M. Shipley himself. But beyond that connection, the legacy he left on our community is immeasurable,” said Katherine Bodoh, CEO AGS and AGS Laboratories.
 
He grew the organization’s membership and guilds and led the expansion of member services. He also helped institute expand key initiatives like the Accredited Gem Laboratory designation and the AGS Diamond Grading Standards, Governance and Education requirements.
 
Woodill retired in 1987, but since AGS didn’t want to say goodbye, it named him “AGS Ambassador.”
 
He continued to offer his insights to the organization’s leadership well after he had stepped down—he was known for calling each new president to welcome them to the new role and give them advice. 
 
The board awarded him Honorary Membership based on his service to the society and the jewelry industry at large.
 
In 1970, he received the prestigious Shipley Award from AGS, and in 2000, the society honored him with the Circle of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award. 
 
AGS set up a memorial page to honor his life and achievements on its website here.
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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