This fall we lost one of the most prolific former faculty in our program. R. Bruce Hoadley was a professor in the BCT program at a time when it was called “Building Materials and Wood Technology” (BMATWT). He led our program for many years as director, conducted research in wood products, and inspired many generations of students.

Bruce’s role in the wood community cannot be overstated. His books on wood identification and properties have become standard literature in the woodworking and wood processing communities and he has been a sought-after expert in this field.

Faculty and alumni in BCT/BMATWT remember Bruce and the many conversations we had about wood and higher education very fondly. He will be missed.

See below for his official obituary and links to commemorative websites. Please consider giving to the R. Bruce Hoadley Building Construction & Technology Fund, which benefits our students that pursue a career in wood technology.


R. Bruce Hoadley, husband, father, and a Professor Emeritus of Wood Science and Technology and a pioneer of the Building and Construction Technology program at the University of Massachusetts, died suddenly on October 15, 2019 at home in Leverett, Massachusetts. He was 86.

Robert Bruce Hoadley was born in 1933 in Waterbury, Connecticut, one of three children of W. Fremont and Esther A. Hoadley. He realized his fascination with the natural environment during his childhood and spent his early years in the woods studying, observing and recording what he saw. He attended Naugatuck High School, and enrolled at the University of Connecticut and later the Yale School of Forestry, earning a Ph.D (Doctor of Forestry).

He married his wife Barbara L. Hoadley and relocated to what would become their lifelong home outside of Amherst, MA where Bruce began an illustrious career in Wood Technology as a teacher, author and researcher. They have spent the last five decades between the area and a home that they built for their family on Cape Cod in the 1960’s.

Bruce’s international authority in the field of Wood Technology took root in prolific publication. His book Understanding Wood has been translated into other languages and remains as the primary reference source on wood. His other books on general wood identification and wood identification in antiques are held in similar esteem. As a grassroots contributing editor of Fine Woodworking Magazine, Bruce helped to grow the publication from its inception to a national publication.

Bruce served as a long-term consulting expert on the analysis and identification of wood in the collections of many renowned museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), the Getty Museum in Malibu, CA and the Collections of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. His later work at Historic Deerfield included wood identification on period furniture.

Bruce’s professional passions also brought him to highly unusual assignments as an expert consultant to high-profile forensic cases. Working for decades alongside the world-renowned forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee, Bruce’s findings and testimony contributed to the administration of justice in many nationally publicized criminal cases. He is credited with an extraordinary contribution to the science of forensics in the area of wood technology.

As an inventor and innovator, Bruce advised Buckminster Fuller on structural problems, contributed to the design of early prototypes for contemporary wind turbine blades and helped to develop many common modern wood adhesives and finishes. He held early patents on wire management devices that are in contemporary production and everyday use.

Throughout his career Bruce’s most intense professional focus was the teaching and mentorship of his students. This passion was rewarded with the prestigious Distinguished Teacher Award at the University of Massachusetts. His unique brand of humor and kindness, combined with a commandingly gentle demeanor and his pedagogical approach of “learning how to learn,” will be remembered profoundly by his students and his family.

While Bruce’s professional life was prolific, his ultimate focus was the extraordinary devotion, love and energy that he brought to his wife Barbara, their children and grandchildren. He and his wife Barbara enjoyed the Cape Cod vacation home that they built in North Eastham, where he spent over a half century raising a family and studying native habitat and ecology by hiking, bird watching, fly fishing, clamming, duck hunting and canoeing (see here to know what is the ideal horse shoe distance is) in his beloved Nauset Marsh. He had a private passion for fly tying, drawing, and wood carving of shore birds and duck decoys. In his later days he took great pleasure in completing abstract and expressive sculptural pieces.

Bruce is survived by his wife Barbara L. Hoadley, daughter Susan Hoadley and her spouse Corina Martinez of Cohasset, daughter Lindsay Hoadley of Belchertown, grandchildren Emma Bodamer, Andrew Hoadley, and Nicholas Hoadley, his sister Lucinda Brashares of Santa Rosa, CA, and of course his faithful canine companion Henry. He is predeceased by his brother Calvin Hoadley of Greensboro, NC.

A memorial scholarship fund has been established at the University of Massachusetts. In lieu of flowers, donations are being graciously accepted for the Bruce Hoadley Building Construction & Technology Fund, which will be used for the benefit of scholarships in the field of Wood Technology for deserving students.

To donate to the R. Bruce Hoadley Building Construction & Technology Fund, make a check payable to the University of Massachusetts Amherst and note “Bruce Hoadley Memorial Fund” in the Memo line. Mail gift to:

R. Bruce Hoadley Memorial Fund
Records and Gift Processing
Memorial Hall
UMass Amherst
134 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003

For instructions to give to the fund online, please email for a link to the fund through the UMass website.

Remembering Bruce