July 25, 2007

Joyce Webb creates endowment to honor husband

by Greg Scott


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CARBONDALE, Ill. — A man who exhibited a devotion to his students and commitment to graduate research is being honored through an endowment established in his memory at the Southern Illinois University Foundation to benefit SIU Carbondale students.

The University will present the first Dr. Howard W. Webb Graduate Research in English Award this fall. The endowment will assist students in covering costs incurred while conducting research in American Literature.

Joyce Webb says the award, named in her husband's honor, will specifically support students in funding travel or other expenses related to their research activities.

"Most graduate students need assistance unless they have a full-time job; which is rare," Webb said. "Students meant a lot to Howard so the goal of this endowment is to support their graduate education well into the future."

Webb worked with SIU Foundation officials to create the award, which will be presented to a graduate student of good standing in SIUC's English Department, with a primary emphasis of study related to American Literature.

"Howard's primary interests were in graduate education and in his studies of Herman Melville's works," Webb said. "This is truly an appropriate way to honor a family member; I would encourage others to follow suit."

Plans to establish the endowment began shortly after her husband's death.

"A number of people responded by making gifts to this endowment through the SIU Foundation and I am thankful for that," she said. "It was up to our family to make sure we reached our goal and we got there. It has been about four years in the making."

Howard Webb, who died in 2003, joined SIUC's English department in 1956 as an American Literature instructor. He ascended to various levels in the department, serving as Director of Graduate Studies in English from 1961 to 1967, and being promoted to professor in 1967. He subsequently chaired the English department from 1968 to 1972.

Additionally, Webb served as academic affairs officer for the Board of Trustees from 1974 to 1979, and system academic officer for the President's office from 1979 to 1985. He retired in 1990, after a five-year stint as Vice President for Academic Affairs for the entire SIU system.

Webb's retirement was interrupted in 1993, when he commenced a brief tenure as interim director for the University Press.

Webb says she considers the University community, in particular the English department, a "part of her family."

"Howard and I had a close relationship. I was connected to his work because he always included me and that meant a lot," Webb said. "Howard had a diversified experience here that he would have never received at a big, urban University. He had a wonderful career here."

Webb's influence was personified in a letter submitted to Southern Alumni magazine by Karen Davis Cutler, a 1965 SIUC graduate, in June 2003. Cutler writes, "Although a government major, I took every course Dr. Howard Webb offered while I was at SIU, beginning with his meticulously organized survey of American literature. Dr. Webb was demanding but always encouraging. Simply put, he was the finest teacher I ever had."

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and CEO of the SIU Foundation, said the endowment exemplifies the Webbs devotion to SIUC students.

"Dr. Webb was an outstanding instructor and mentor to young people. Through this endowment, Mrs. Webb has ensured that his legacy will have a positive influence on the educational endeavors of SIU Carbondale students for years to come," McCurry said.

"We are truly grateful to the Webb family."

Mrs. Webb has two daughters, Amy, a 1977 SIUC graduate who serves as a development associate with the Presidential Library Foundation in Springfield; and Sarah, administrative assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at Kingwood College in Kingwood, Texas. She also has two grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Granddaughter Megan Moore is a 1998 cum laude graduate of the SIUC English Department.

Webb says southern Illinois has a special place in her heart.

"There are a lot of interesting people in this community," she said. "When we first moved here, I said lets stay three years and that's it. But there is no way you could pull me away from here now.

"I don't think I could have lived anywhere else and made this many valuable friends."