Del Mar's Woodrow Wilson is a scientist, a Toastmaster, a cook, an author, a husband, a father and a grandfather. Wilson earned his Ph.D. from Caltech and began a career in research and development. Highlights of his long and varied career include 12,000 mph impacts, explosions and disposal of chemical ammunition.
Wilson is an advanced communicator and an advanced leader in Toastmasters. His technical experience plays into some entertaining and informative Toastmaster speeches. So do his children, his grandchildren and his books. Wilson also serves as area governor, supporting the management of six local Toastmaster clubs.
Wilson brings his creativity out of the laboratory and into the kitchen. Toying with recipes — adjusting ingredients or substituting for whatever he's out of — yields new takes on old favorites. Cooking by the seat of his pants, Wilson produces new taste sensations. His best are presented in his "The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook," which he is signing in libraries across North County.
What brought you to Del Mar?
I fell in love with California when I was in school at Caltech. The job market was nearly as bad when I graduated as it is today. It took six years to find a job that would pay me to work in California. I moved to Olivenhain when it was still rural, won the Bicentennial Beer Drinking Contest, and decided I never wanted to leave northern San Diego County. So far, so good. I'm now in rural Del Mar.
What makes this town special to you?
There's so much to love about our town. When the tide is out, walking the beach from Penasquitos Lagoon to Dog Beach and back is out of this world. Watch for people, dolphins and even whales. If you have time, stop at the tide pools along the way. On a summer Tuesday night, there are concerts at Powerhouse Park. Watch the sunset with a baguette, a bottle of wine and a few good cheeses.
If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?
Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland; I'd drive the snails out of North County.
What inspires you?
On morning walks with the dogs, I can watch the sun rise over the mountains of East County and know there's another day in paradise ahead for me. I promise myself not to waste it.
If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?
I'd invite Hedy Lamarr. She lived her famous quote, "Any girl can be glamorous, all you have to do is stand still and look stupid." She hid a brilliant mind to be regarded as the most glamorous woman in the world. Her patent led to the Qualcomm patents. Where would the area economy be without them?
A former teacher, Richard Feynman would be the life of any party. Fascinating: He invented quantum electrodynamics, and he played bongo drums. He could talk to anyone about anything. He would sketch Hedy Lamarr's portrait ... and probably take her home at the end of the evening.
Ben Franklin would be a welcome guest. Scientist, statesman and diplomat: Imagine the stories he could tell about the founding fathers. He would coin a dozen new Poor Richard one-liners before the evening was over. A legendary lady's man in his time, he might compete with Feynman for Hedy's attention.
Galileo could talk to Feynman. Einstein considered him the smartest man who ever lived. He'd be fascinated by modern astronomy that grew from his creation. He could tell us about the Inquisition. Would he be happy to know that his heresy was pardoned ... 500 years later?
We'd take Leonardo da Vinci down to the Air and Space Museum to see its exhibit of his inventions. We'd ask him about the Mona Lisa: Who was she? What was she smiling about? Would I ask him what he thought of Dan Brown's book? I don't think so.
Named the 16th most influential person in history (behind the likes of Mohamed, Buddha, Confucius, Christ, Newton, Galileo and Einstein), Charles Darwin could be an interesting guest. He conceived his theory of natural selection after an extended trip around the world, but spent the next 23 years refining it. He only published then because a rival had come to the same conclusion.
Darwin would get along well with Isaac Newton, the father of classical physics. They were both obsessive to the point of stubbornness. To discover physics, Newton first had to invent calculus. Calculus was neat, and he wanted to explore its full potential before publishing. (Four hundred years later, mathematicians still haven't finished that task.) Like Darwin, he finally published when a competitor was about to scoop him.
Jules Verne would be glad to learn he was right about the submarine, and dead-on about going to the moon. He'd be fascinated by today. I wonder what he'd say about tomorrow.
Tell us about what you are currently reading.
I've fallen months behind in reading Scientific American. I read it cover to cover; sometimes I even read it twice. I'm also reading a few business books on publishing and marketing.
For entertainment, I visit the library and peruse the fiction section. When I find an author I like, I return and read everything the author has written. This month, I'm reading my way through Greg Iles' mysteries set in the deep South.
What is your most-prized possession?
Since you can't "possess" people, I'd have to say my most-prized possession is my green thumb. I'm into plants, and most of mine survive. With water rates rising, I love cactus and succulents more than ever these days.
What do you do for fun?
For grown-up fun, there are walks on the beach, concerts in the park, and prime rib at Bully's. There are barbecues, dinner parties and my son's concerts. With my grandchildren, there are the trails of San Dieguito Park, and all the animals at Feather Acres Nursery next door. The San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park are favorite day trips. I took "staycations" in San Diego County when gas was 30 cents a gallon.
Please describe your greatest accomplishment.
My greatest accomplishment would have to be earning my Ph.D. from Caltech. That gave me the tickets to a world of interesting and challenging problems.
What is your life motto?
Do something interesting.