His students knew him as "Dr. Wood." His colleagues called him "Woody."

Today, they're mourning the loss of the beloved U.S. Air Force Academy professor and his wife, Resia, a Schriever AFB employee, who died over the weekend in a small plane crash in Iowa. Friends and colleagues say their deaths have left a void in the Colorado Springs Air Force community.

"The Air Force Academy and Schriever AFB family suffered a heartbreaking loss this past weekend," read a statement posted Tuesday on the Air Force Academy Facebook page. "Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the Wood family and to those friends, colleagues and countless cadets who were influenced by Dr. and Mrs. Wood."

The Woods were on their way back from visiting family in Michigan when they crashed, said Lt. Col. Don Rhymer, head of the Department of Engineering Mechanics at the Air Force Academy, where Wood taught for 16 years.

Rhymer, who worked with John Wood for more than four years, described him as having a "heart to serve."

For the last 12 years, Wood was a civilian associate professor in the department. Before that, he taught in the department from 1994 to 1998 as an active duty officer.

"His students loved his professionalism and his passion for engineering and developing officers," Rhymer said.

Resia Wood, a contracting officer for the Missile Defense Agency at Schriever, was "at virtually every department function that she was allowed to come to," Rhymer said.

The couple had five children, including Josh, who is a defensive backs football coach at Michigan Technological University. The couple were on their way home from visiting him when the plane crashed.

Wood's commitment to mechanical engineering was something he had passion for sharing, and extended beyond the Air Force Academy, said Rhymer. He played a big role in STEM outreach in the community, in part through volunteering countless hours with the Coronado High School robotics team.

Bryce McLean, head coach of the Coronado robotics team, said Wood helped lay the foundation for the team and was active with it until his death. When they were preparing for competitions, they met almost everyday for four hours, including on Saturdays, said McLean, who described Wood as "nurturing" and a "pure educator."

"I don't know where he found the time. He was very involved in the community. Very involved in giving back," he said. "He was trying to get this young generation excited about something he loved."

Leah Jaron, 20, and her sister Tracey, 17,described Wood as a mentor. Leah spent four years on the robotics team working with Wood, and is currently studying mechanical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines.

"He was a part of our family on robotics. He pushed the students to work to the best of their ability." she said. "He was definitely a big influence in my choice to pursue mechanical engineering."

Tracey, a senior at Coronado High School and the robotic team's CEO, said the team won't be the same without him.

"It'll keep on thriving, but it's a void that will never be filled," she said. "We're going to miss him a lot."

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation of the crash. A preliminary report about the incident is expected to be released in a few days, though the full report could take up to a year to be completed.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.