Dr. James Westbury
A lifelong advocate for learning, Dr. James Westbury spent his entire career and retirement years working to strengthen education in the St. Louis area.
Special School District (SSD) was very fortunate to be on the receiving end of Dr. Westbury’s volunteer activities. Dr. Westbury was appointed to the SSD Board of Education in August 2000, and subsequently was elected in March 2001 to serve the remaining year of the term. Dr. Westbury would go on to be re-elected for five additional terms through March 2017. During his 17 years on the Board, he served as SSD Board president for eight years from 2006 through 2014.
During his time on the Board, the District was recognized for its continuous improvement efforts by the Excellence in Missouri Foundation, which presented SSD with the Missouri Quality Award in 2015, and two tax levies were passed with overwhelming support from the community. Always looking for ways to encourage and support students who were seeking good educational opportunities, Dr. Westbury was instrumental in creating the criteria for the SSD Board of Education Scholarship, which has been awarded to more than a dozen students since 2007.
In the following excerpt from the District’s Fall 2006 newsletter, Dr. Westbury explains his dedication to SSD and its students.
“When people ask me why I sit on the SSD Board of Education, why I commit to the long hours of volunteering, I can’t help but smile a little bit,” he said. “If you had a chance to see what I see, you wouldn’t have to ask why I’m committed to Special School District. SSD is what education is all about. It offers all students the opportunity to receive the education they deserve.”
Dr. Westbury’s strong commitment to the mission of Special School District along with the wealth of experience he brought to the Board after a long successful career in public education at Normandy School District made him a valued, respected Board member. Dr. Westbury worked for 37 years in the Normandy District in many different roles – as an elementary and secondary teacher, football and track coach, elementary school principal, district administrator, assistant superintendent and for the last 11 years as superintendent.
Already known as a visionary leader, one of Dr. Westbury’s major accomplishments was in the area of higher education. Dr. Westbury was appointed to serve as a member of the Committee of 28, a group of men and women assembled by the Normandy School District who played a key role in buying the former Bellerive Country Club and transforming it into the University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL) in 1960. For his work on the committee, Dr. Westbury was awarded UMSL’s prestigious Chancellor’s Medallion in 1994 and in 2014 was presented with an honorary degree from UMSL for the special role he played in the university’s history.
Dr. Westbury retired from the Normandy District in 1987, but continued to serve the community in various other roles.
In addition to serving on the SSD Board of Education for 17 years, he served on the Vantage Credit Union Board from 1990-2006, the last seven years as Chairman. Beginning in 1995, he was an adjunct professor of educational leadership at Saint Louis University, sharing his experiences and expertise with students who would go on to be school district administrators. Dr. Westbury also spent 47 years officiating high school football games for the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), including one state championship, and was an enthusiastic volunteer for the USO at St. Louis -Lambert International Airport.
A 1945 graduate of Ritenour High School and a member of that school’s Alumni Hall of Fame, Dr. Westbury spent two years in the Navy before earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Washington University in St. Louis. He earned a doctorate from Saint Louis University.