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American Gem Society Legend, Al Woodill, Passes Away at 101 Years Old

It is with a heavy heart that the American Gem Society (AGS) announces the passing of former Executive Director Alfred L. Woodill on August 17, 2021. Mr. Woodill served as the AGS Executive Director from 1947–1987.

“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, RJ, CEO of the American Gem Society and AGS Laboratories.

Known to many of his friends—and he had many of them—as “Big Al” or “Mr. AGS,” Mr. Woodill was considered a man of great talent and had an un-abiding passion for the AGS. He’s credited with the transformation of the Society to the powerhouse of an association that it is today.

Woodill, a California native, and nephew of Mr. Shipley’s wife, Beatrice, worked for the Shipleys while in high school and later at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he graduated with a B.S. in Business in 1946. While at UCLA, he took time off to serve as a bomber pilot in World War II, rising to the rank of captain in the Army Air Corps. In 1947, Mr. Woodill took over as Robert M. Shipley’s successor.

Former Executive Director Alfred L. Woodill

Early in his career, Mr. Woodill traveled with Mr. Shipley selling GIA courses, promoting the AGS, and attending Conclaves. Since he knew shorthand, Mr. Woodill would write as Mr. Shipley dictated articles during their many long trips by car.

For 40 years, Mr. Woodill led AGS through its growth in membership, the Guilds, and Member Services, and the introduction of key initiatives like the Accredited Gem Laboratory® (AGL) designation and the AGS Diamond Grading Standards, Governance and Education requirements. His quiet but determined leadership inspired his team and the members he faithfully served. The AGS Board of Directors awarded him Honorary Membership based on his service to the Society and the jewelry industry.

In 1970, Mr. Woodill received the prestigious Robert M. Shipley Award®, an annual recognition conferred upon a member of the AGS for outstanding service to the Society who exemplifies the high purposes, objectives, and ideals of the Society. In 1987, Mr. Woodill retired, but the AGS wasn’t ready to say goodbye and named him “AGS Ambassador.” Even after his retirement, Mr. Woodill continued to offer his insight to the AGS leadership. He made a point of calling each new president of the AGS Board of Directors, welcoming them to their role, and lending his advice. Ruth Batson, who was the AGS CEO for 23 years, and later, Katherine Bodoh, also benefited from his wisdom and guidance.

In 2000, Mr. Woodill was honored with the AGS Circle of Distinction, Lifetime Achievement Award.

He last attended Conclave in 2017 in Hollywood, CA. He participated at the Shipley Award luncheon and received a standing ovation from the multi-generational audience, all of whom either knew him or had heard stories of this legendary AGS treasure.