M.S. Engineering Management ’91
Hometown: Newtown, Conn.
Fun Fact: Lives with his five children on a 300-year-old farm originally deeded by King George of England.
When Todd Wood says he’s in Moscow, he doesn’t mean Moscow, Idaho. He means Moscow, Russia. His girlfriend is from Russia, and he’s researching his next book. Coming from a former U.S. Air Force helicopter pilot and author of the new financial thriller (yes, there is such a thing), it wouldn’t be surprising if he was also in Moscow on a top-secret, 007 assignment. Upon retrospect, it seems silly to think he was just in Idaho promoting his first published title.
Currency published in December 2011 and Todd has been busy with promotion, but it has also marked his move from investment banking to full-time writing. Separated from the Air Force since 1994, Todd’s path is a bit eclectic, but on further examination it isn’t all that disjointed. And UAA fits in seamlessly.
Todd graduated from high school in 1982 and was recruited into the U.S. Air Force Academy his senior year, not knowing exactly what he was getting into other than it meant a chance to see the world and get an excellent education at the same time. At the Academy he studied aeronautical engineering and immediately after graduation in 1986, he entered flight school. In 1987 he had his helicopter pilot rating in hand and was dispatched to Alaska on his first assignment.
Based at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage for three years, Todd flew Combat Search and Rescue missions in the Unique Harsh Arctic Environment team (UHAE, pronounced “Yoo Hay” by Alaskans). In addition to local rescue missions, he was also deployed throughout Asia as needed.
It was during his time in Alaska, too, that he earned his M.S. in engineering management at UAA.
“I always knew I wanted a graduate degree, and UAA had an attractive program,” he says. “It was very accommodating to what I needed as far as time and course selection. It matched my background nicely and was a good stepping stone for a future in business.”
Business came later. First he moved from Alaska to New Mexico for Special Operations flight training and in 1991 was deployed to Kuwait as part of the 20th Special Operations Squadron. “Over the next three years I was active in classified missions in support of counterterrorism, deploying throughout the world,” he says.
He was 29 years old when he separated from the Air Force in 1994. And after such an intense job for nearly a decade, he took up a new career in the only slightly less intense field of investment banking on Wall Street.
“I had always been interested in finance, and going through the engineering management program at UAA really enforced that,” he says. “Investment banking is really very similar to special ops in a lot of ways, too. I was an emerging market bond trader and I had to watch the market constantly, there was always money on the line and that was stressful, too.”
How did Todd balance his job-related stress throughout the years?
The writing bug bit when he was in Alaska and his first novel, The Ultimate Solution (never published), was based in Alaska. Then, as he worked on Wall Street and conducted financial business in more than 40 countries worldwide, “I became acutely aware of the consequences of economic decisions and their effect on national and economic security,” he says on his website.
Thus, his second novel, Currency, was born.
Critics say Currency is “a good dose of high finance, world markets, historical facts all strung together to pull the reader into this gut-wrenching, action thriller.”
“Wood develops the primary characters nicely and creates a level of suspense that keeps you turning the pages,” says another. “What makes the storyline especially compelling is that it speaks to the financial issues that threaten to undermine our nation’s economic security today.”
Todd has just recently committed to full-time writing. His next novel, Sugar, is due out December 2012 and will focus on the historical sugar trade in the Caribbean.
It’s been just over 20 years since Todd was in Alaska last, but we’re excited to welcome him back during Homecoming week for an author event at the UAA Campus Bookstore on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012.
“UAA did a fantastic job supporting me as a military student when I was there,” he says. “The university was very accommodating and I have nothing but good memories. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with that part of my life.”
For more on Todd and his work, visit www.ltoddwood.com .