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.

The Latest

Events & AwardsSep 24, 2021
These 3 Companies Will Receive Business Grants from PGI USA

PGI created the program to accelerate the growth of the platinum jewelry market in the U.S.

CollectionsSep 24, 2021
Zales Introduces Elvis Presley Men’s Jewelry Line

From its curb link chains to statement diamond rings, the new collection takes inspiration from the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

TrendsSep 24, 2021
Piece of the Week: Mateo’s Initial Pendant

It’s a trendy take on personalization.

Brought to you by
Bringing Sexy Back: The Allure of COUTURE, Italian Style

Take a tour of Italian designers at COUTURE 2021.

CrimeSep 23, 2021
5 Men Who Fenced Stolen Diamonds Get 15 Years in Prison

They bought and resold jewels from a South America-based gang that targeted traveling salespeople across the United States.

Weekly QuizSep 23, 2021
This Week's Quiz
Test your knowledge of jewelry news from the week of Sept. 20-24, 2021.
Take the Quiz
SourcingSep 23, 2021
Joanna Hardy Completes Gemstone Trilogy with ‘Sapphire’ Book

It’s the follow-up to “Emerald” and “Ruby.”

GradingSep 23, 2021
Another Diamond With Fake GIA Inscription Surfaces

Graders at HRD Antwerp found this one, a HPHT-treated natural diamond inscribed with the report number of an untreated stone.

Brought to you by
What is your Health Care Coverage Strategy?

Health care coverage is a big expense for small businesses - find out how to lower costs long-term instead of every 12 months.

Events & AwardsSep 22, 2021
From Conclave: JVC Shares Anti-Money Laundering Program Tips

Plus, jeweler Melissa Quick of Steve Quick Jeweler details what it was like to go through an AML audit.

×