Richard MacKenzie, Leader of Woodberry-in-Britain, Has Died

Richard MacKenzie, who changed the lives of hundreds of students through the Woodberry-in-Britain program, died Thursday, September 12 after a long illness.

Mr. MacKenzie is unique among Woodberry faculty members in that he is even better known for the years he spent away from campus than the time he spent teaching here at Woodberry. The Cambridge University graduate joined the history department in 1964 from Deerfield Academy and also coached soccer and tennis. Driving various British convertibles around the Woodberry campus, he was easy to spot. A lifelong learner, along with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cambridge he also held a degree from Nottingham University. 

In 1973 he and his wife, Wendy, moved back across the Atlantic to Wintringham Hall, a large Victorian house near Cambridge, England with comfortable quarters for fourteen students, a tennis court, a swimming pool, and extensive grounds surrounded by a fourteenth-century moat.

It was here that for the next twenty-four years that they hosted the Woodberry- in-Britain Program. In two or three trimesters each year, seven Woodberry students and seven girls from other boarding and day schools lived with the MacKenzies at Wintringham Hall and studied contemporary Britain and its political system, British ecclesiastical architecture, and four or five Shakespearean plays. In addition to regular excursions into Cambridge, London, and Stratford, the students visited sites in Scotland and Wales. 

“Richard and Wendy MacKenzie gently allowed each of us to explore our limits with unbridled enthusiasm, careful to provide us with appropriate guidelines for our behavior,” Jim Szyperski ’74 told Richard Barnhardt ’66 a few years ago. “My experience with the MacKenzies was the single most important educational experience of my life.” 

There were hundreds of  “MacKenzie alumni” from the program, and many would agree with this assessment. They along with their parents and others contributed generously to provide endowment support for the school’s international studies program when the MacKenzies retired in 1997. Both Richard and Wendy MacKenzie were given the Woodberry Forest School Distinguished Service Award at Commencement in 1997.  Also in 1997, Sally and Russell Robinson ‘50 and others hosted “A Celebration of Richard and Wendy MacKenzie and the Woodberry Forest-in-Britain Program” at the Charlotte Country Club with more than 100 participants.

Mr. and Mrs. MacKenzie visited Woodberry for the last time in 2013, when Headmaster Dennis Campbell and his wife Leesa hosted a reception in the MacKenzies’ honor at the Residence that included three faculty members who had participated in the Woodberry-in-Britain program. Mr. MacKenzie regaled the guests with stories, including how he successfully negotiated his contract with Baker Duncan in front of the very fireplace where he was speaking. 

Mr. MacKenzie is survived by his wife, Wendy, and their three children: Fiona, James, and Rhian. The funeral will be at St James’s Croxton in Cambridgeshire on Thursday, October 3, at 2.30, and any alumni are warmly welcome to join the family. The wake will be a tea party at Wintringham Hall.

Messages of condolence may be sent to Mrs. MacKenzie at the following address:

Wintringham Hall
St. Neots Huntington
Cambridgeshire, PE19 S6P
Much of the material in this obituary is drawn from Richard Barnhardt’s faculty old guard history of the MacKenzies. You can see that profile here and on display in the Terry Dining Hall when visiting campus.
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