Law School Reflects on Janise Woodard, Prepares for Memorial Service

The seat which Janise Joseph Woodard, 24, occupied in her Criminal Law Class will remain vacant, as fellow students mourn their beloved classmate.

“No one is allowed to sit in it because we feel she can’t be replaced,” said Ursula Velze, a fellow law student.

Woodard, a first-year law student at Florida A&M University’s College of Law, along with her 6-month-old son, Joseph, died in a fire at their Stanford home Tuesday morning after a neighbor’s house was struck by a small airplane.

Officials reported a plane attempting an emergency landing at Orlando’s Sanford International Airport struck one home that burst into flames and spread to Woodard’s home claiming the life of her and her son.

Classes were cancelled Tuesday night by Interim Law School Dean Ruth A. Witherspoon. Students used the time to express their loss and support one another.

Witherspoon remembered Woodard saying that she was expecting another child with her husband. For that reason, Woodard switched from the school’s full-time day program to the part-time night program.

“Janise was very concerned about being able to give her best to both her family and her studies,” Witherspoon said.

Fellow student Deborah Cook said she knew Woodard since her pregnancy with Joseph.

“She influenced and impressed everyone,” Cook said. She added that Woodard was “very bright and incredibly mature for her age, she was very beautiful.”

Back in Sanford more than 300 community members held a candlelight vigil for Woodard at Sanford’s Preserve at the Lake Monroe subdivision to pray for unity and strength for the families of the victims.

Natalie Jackson, an attorney with the Garfinkel Trial Group in Maitland, is serving as the family attorney. She said the family is still making arrangements for her funeral.

Cook said Woodard’s classmates are planning a memorial service for her but the date is still pending. Cook said Woodard’s family wanted to be in attendance and requested the memorial service be held after the funeral.

Cook added that on graduation day one seat will be left for Woodard.

Woodard’s family was unable to be reached for comment.

Letitia Skippings contributed to this report.