Zachariah Wood, a doctoral candidate at LSU, was riding his bicycle on Tupello Street on his way home Saturday night and was struck by a vehicle as he attempted to cross Lee Drive.
Wood, known as “Zach,” was pronounced dead at the scene in the 2200 block of Lee Drive about 7:45 p.m., Baton Rouge police said.
“He was 20-30 feet from his door,” said Chris Wood, Zach Wood’s father. “It happened right in front of where he lives.”
L’Jean McKneely, a police spokesman, said the driver who hit Wood submitted to a breath test and was determined not to have been intoxicated. While the incident is still under investigation, McKneely said he does not anticipate an arrest.
Wood, one of about 20 students in the School of Kinesiology doctoral program at LSU, taught two classes as a teaching assistant at the university. He had begun his work towards his doctorate in fall 2014.
Chris Wood said his son was engaged to Emily Mason, a graduate of LSU.
Zach Wood completed his undergraduate education at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, in political science, and he participated in the master’s program at Oregon State before taking a job with LSU. He completed his master’s at LSU and moved into the doctoral program shortly after.
Wood had plans to work in academia, possibly as a professor, Chris Wood said.
He said his son made an impact everywhere he went, noting that while Zach Wood only spent two years at Oregon State University, the college is now creating a scholarship in his name.
Melinda Solmon, director of LSU’s School of Kinesiology, said his impact was no different at LSU. She said she passed along several letters from Wood’s students to his family.
“We are struggling,” Solmon said, tearing up. “It’s a devastating loss. He meant a lot to his students and colleagues.”
Wood, from San Francisco, moved to Louisiana in 2011 and took a job with LSU’s recreation center, UREC, as coordinator of club sports and summer camp programs, and worked there through July 2014, said Laurie Braden, the director of UREC.
“I think you would find that people described him as focused, compassionate and caring,” Braden said. “He always had a great smile, and a hug for everybody that he met and knew.”
“He was a phenomenal basketball player,” she added.
Chris Wood said his son was not only an athlete but a musician. His mother and sister taught him to play the violin.
“We have three children,” Chris Wood said. “I know you’re not supposed to say this, but he was the best of us.”
Solmon said her department and Wood’s family have set up a service to celebrate Wood’s life, planned for 5 p.m. Friday in the Cotillion Ballroom in the LSU Student Union. It will be followed by a candlelight ceremony at the Memorial Tower.
“He’ll be greatly missed by many people all over the country, not just here at LSU,” Braden said.