NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University dedicated its Wellness, Recreation and Activity Center in honor of the late Dr. Randall J. Webb in a ceremony held Tuesday before a large crowd on what would have been Webb’s 75th birthday.
Webb was the longest-serving president in the history of Northwestern State, holding the position from July 1, 1996 to Dec. 31, 2014.
“For 25 years, Dr. Webb stepped up to a microphone and said ‘This is a red letter day for Northwestern State University.’ And this day truly is,” said Northwestern State President Dr. Chris Maggio. “I am so proud to see so many people here to honor a man who was so special to so many of us.”
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 81,000 square foot facility which was completed in 2004.
“We are honoring a man who did as much for this university as any single individual,” said University of Louisiana System President and CEO Dr. Jim Henderson, who succeeded Webb as NSU’s president. “There are two things about Randy Webb that stick out: his loyalty to the university and his love for students. It defines who Randy Webb was and is that we are naming a building in his honor that was built by students.”
SGA President Tre Nelson experienced an example of Webb’s feeling towards students the first time the two met at a party a few months before Nelson enrolled at NSU.
“He could have spent all his time talking to all the important people at the party, but he took time to get to know an incoming freshman at Northwestern,” said Nelson. “After talking for a few minutes, I found his words so genuine that all my fears about attending the university went away.”
Webb encouraged his friend Lola Dunahoe to serve on the NSU Foundation Board of Directors several years ago. Dunahoe became president of the Foundation board and was later appointed to the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System. Dunahoe called Webb “a scholar, a great leader, an encourager and a Christian gentleman.”
“Everyone at Northwestern had an opportunity to be encouraged by Randy,” said Dunahoe. “He gave his best and expected it out of others. My life was enriched because I was able to call Randy Webb my friend.”
Athletic Director Greg Burke said Webb was a “boss, mentor, advocate, supporter, fan and friend.”
He said Webb never waivered in his support for the athletic program, and had strong views about what the program should be.
“When I interviewed for the position of athletic director, he told me that “we are going to win, our student athletes are going to graduate and we will carry ourselves in the right way,” said Burke. “I learned so much from him.”
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.