Northwestern State University has received approval from the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System to name its Wellness, Recreation and Activity Center in honor of the late Dr. Randall J. Webb. The request was approved Thursday by the Board of Supervisors at its October meeting.
Webb, who passed away in Nov. 2015 at 72, was the longest-serving president in the history of Northwestern State, holding the position from July 1, 1996 to Dec. 31, 2014.
“Naming the Wellness, Recreation and Activity Center in honor of Dr. Webb underscores and perpetuates his meaningful contributions to Northwestern State during his long tenure as president and in other roles at the university,” said NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio. “The WRAC has been an enormous asset for the university in attracting and retaining students and has served both the university and the community in promoting and facilitating a healthy lifestyle for students, university personnel and people in the Natchitoches community.”
Northwestern State students approved a referendum in 1998 to fund construction of the Wellness, Recreation and Activity Center. The $6.9 million project converted the former Intramural Building into a modern 81,000 square foot facility which was completed in 2004.
Alicia Irmscher, who was SGA president in 1997-98, recalled how Webb provided guidance to student leaders as they decided whether to renovate the Intramural Building or construct a new building on campus.
“I was adamant that I wanted a new building and Dr. Webb in his infinite wisdom told me he would support me and the SGA in whatever we decided to do but to consider all possible options,” said Irmscher, a mission support specialist with the FBI in New Orleans. “As time progressed and we looked at architectural renderings of both a new and renovated facility as well as comparing costs. It was clear what we as the SGA needed to do to be good stewards of the student’s money. I’m pretty sure Dr. Webb knew that we would eventually come to the logical decision of choosing the renovated (larger building with a lower cost) recreation center, however, he never once told us no nor did he tell us we were wrong. He only offered sage advice and wisdom as we moved forward with fulfilling this dream.”
Irmscher said Webb continued to be available to assist her after she graduated from NSU.
“Dr. Webb was also a true mentor for me,” she said. “There have been a handful of situations over the last several years that I reached out to him for his advice, and he always took time out of his schedule to call or email me back with his advice and help. Dr. Webb was a tireless, kind, and humble servant to the students, faculty, and Northwestern community.”
Luke Dowden, who served as Student Government Association President in 1998-99 when the student referendum was approved, said Webb had a great love for students and cared about the whole student.
“Naming the WRAC in his honor is the most symbolic representation of his care for the whole person,” said Dowden, director of the Office of Distance Learning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “Dr. Webb was such an inviting person, and naming the WRAC after him represents what student leaders envisioned it would be one day – a welcoming place for students to focus on their personal health and find work-life balance.”
Under Webb’s leadership, Northwestern State received unprecedented national and international attention for its academic programs and student accomplishments. University facilities in addition to the WRAC were renovated to better serve students and two record-setting capital campaigns took place.
Enrollment reached record levels during Webb’s tenure as president and exceeded 10,500 for the first time in school history in the fall of 2004. Webb led NSU toward higher admission standards, which has resulted in students at the university having greater academic potential and aptitude. During Webb’s tenure, Northwestern State had the largest graduating classes in the university’s history.
Webb expanded the university’s outreach by spearheading the development at NSU of the largest electronic education network of any university in Louisiana.
Millions of dollars were obtained during Webb’s presidency for new and renovated facilities. Other new facilities include the Jimmy D. Long Sr. Student Services Center and University Place I and II. Morrison Hall, the Family and Consumer Sciences Building, Williamson Hall, Russell Hall and Caspari Hall were completely renovated and restored.
A 1965 graduate of Northwestern in mathematics and business education, Webb earned a master of science degree in mathematics from NSU in 1966. He received a doctorate in education from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1971 with a concentration in mathematics and research.
Webb was a member of the faculty of Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia, from 1966 until 1974. He served as Director of Higher Education and Teacher Certification in the Louisiana Department of Education from 1974 through 1976. He moved to Southeastern Louisiana University in 1976 and held positions as director of institutional research, EEO officer, registrar and member of the mathematics faculty in his 13 years in Hammond.
He became Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies and professor of mathematics at Northwestern in 1989. In that position, he was responsible for campus-wide policy development, planning, advancement and review of both graduate and undergraduate programs. Among his other duties were chairing the steering committee for NSU’s Self Study for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.