The impact of Northwestern State’s longest-serving president, the late Dr. Randy Webb, and his wife Brenda, was monumental on the university and its athletic program during his tenure from 1996-2014.
For current and future NSU student-athletes, it will continue to be felt with the creation of the Webb Family Athletic Scholarship endowment as part of the Perpetually Purple program through the Demons Unlimited Foundation, the 501-c-3 private foundation which supports NSU Athletics.
The announcement of the scholarship endowment was made by Brenda Webb and NSU director of athletics Greg Burke, who noted Dr. Webb broached the subject of establishing the scholarship during a conversation last summer just a few months into his retirement. He passed away a week before Thanksgiving at the age of 72.
Mrs. Webb recalled the initial discussion involving her husband and Burke and said the concept immediately started moving forward.
“After retirement, Randy and I wanted to do something more for Athletics. We had always given, but the Perpetually Purple campaign seemed an ideal way to continue to support the student-athletes,” she said. “The program’s name says it all — a way to support forever. Our love for NSU athletics has always been there. This offered a way to provide support in years to come.
“When Greg shared with Randy about the campaign, we knew it was for us. Our academic scholarships have been a great way to help students. Now this gift can provide help for the student-athletes,” she said. “Randy and I had planned to present Greg the check in October. Unfortunately Randy’s illness kept us from meeting with Greg. It was important for me to follow up on Randy’s wishes and in early December the gift was given.
“Our family has been touched by the gifts to the academic scholarship in Randy’s memory. The Webb Family Scholarship for Athletics is now another opportunity for us and others to offer financial support to our outstanding students and coaches,” said Mrs. Webb.
To contribute to the Webb Family Endowed Athletic Scholarship at NSU, contact assistant athletic director Haley Blount (firstname.lastname@example.org, 318-357-4278)or mail a contribution to NSU Athletics, c/o Haley Blount, Athletic Fieldhouse, Natchitoches, LA 71497.
“The fact that Dr. Webb and Brenda were among the most ardent supporters of student-athletes and coaches during his tenure as NSU president makes establishing this scholarship most fitting,” said Burke. “They genuinely cared about the on- and off-field welfare and success of the NSU athletic program and demonstrated that passion by attending many athletic events, home and away, as well as financially supporting the Demons Unlimited Foundation on an annual basis.
“Through this generous commitment to establish an endowed scholarship, the impact they have had on NSU Athletics through the years is now in place on a continuing basis,” said Burke.
Mrs. Webb said their admiration for Burke and his athletic staff, along with Vice President for External Affairs Jerry Pierce, were additional motivating factors.
“Greg Burke and his leadership is another great reason we wanted to offer our gift,” she said. “Greg and all his leadership team and staff do an outstanding job. Our family expresses appreciation to Greg, Haley and all the staff and coaches for their respect and support during our tenure, and most recently through our loss. Special thanks goes to Vice President Pierce. As a cabinet member, Jerry saw first-hand Randy’s passion for NSU Athletics.”
Blount, who set the NSU record in the pole vault as a student-athlete, said competitors always appreciated the sincere interest and involvement in NSU Athletics by the Webbs. Last November, in her role as assistant athletics director, she received a compelling phone call from Mrs. Webb.
“As a former student-athlete and now a staff member at NSU, the personal touch from Dr. Webb and Mrs. Brenda always meant so much to me. When Mrs. Brenda called me just two days after Dr. Webb passed, I assumed the purpose of the phone call would have something to do with helping with the funeral arrangements. But, she was calling to make sure that we knew that they hadn’t forgotten about the Perpetually Purple Program and she would get us a check and finalize their contribution as soon as possible,” said Blount. “Her kindness and thoughtfulness moved me to tears. Even in the midst of such tragedy, Mrs. Brenda and her family were always thinking of ways that they could help others. This gift is a fitting tribute to the legacy that Dr. Webb and his family have left in the NSU Athletic department, and I’m happy that his name will live on in the lives of NSU student-athletes for years to come.”
Mrs. Webb said she and her husband were very gratified by their interaction with student-athletes at Northwestern State even before he became president. Dr. Webb was on the DUF board of directors prior to his selection as president and was a season ticket holder for all sports while he served as Dean of Instruction and Graduate Studies.
“We admire the student-athletes who represent NSU, and were extremely privileged to work with them and support them. We know how truly committed to their sports they are, and how much pride they take in representing our university,” she said. “We also appreciate the work our coaches do, especially in recruiting young men and women to attend Northwestern.
“Randy and I felt each student-athlete offers so much to the student experience on campus. Good, healthy athletic competition is part of the college experience, whether it’s as a participant, as a band member or a spirit group member, or as somebody in the stands watching and cheering,” said Mrs. Webb. “You appreciate young people doing their best representing the university whether it’s in the classroom or in competition, and we have always been proud of how NSU has done in both areas.”
The Webb family has a direct understanding of the commitment required of the nearly 400 NCAA Division I student-athletes at NSU. Both of their sons-in-law, Reggie Gatewood (married to Tamara, their oldest daughter) and Nick Simokatis (whose wife is the former Lauren Webb), were standout baseball players in the 1990s for the Demons.
“We have seen that ability to compete carry on to the business world for both of them. What they learned as student-athletes, how to be part of successful teams, how to manage their time, how to work effectively with a variety of people in many different situations, has helped them in the business world,” said Mrs. Webb. “Reggie and Nick learned how to interact, to put your best foot forward, and they have both shown that in their careers. It’s been a wonderful influence on our family.”
A proud native of Haynesville, Webb arrived at NSU in the fall of 1961 as a walk-on center on coach Jack Clayton’s football team. Four years later, he graduated with degrees in mathematics and business education. He earned his master’s in mathematics from Northwestern State in 1966, and earned a doctorate in education with a concentration in mathematics and research from Southern Mississippi in 1971.
As president, Webb was an avid supporter of Demon athletics, and devoted himself to ensuring the university’s athletic programs remained competitively successful. In his 18 years as president, Webb enjoyed teams winning 19 regular-season Southland Conference championships, 17 Southland Tournament titles and making 21 NCAA Tournament appearances, while 35 NSU track and field competitors won Division I All-America honors by virtue of top 16 finishes at NCAA championships.
The president’s home at NSU is adjacent to Brown-Stroud Field, home of Demon baseball. He rooted hard for the St. Louis Cardinals and was slated to throw out a first pitch at a Cardinals game last season before his illness was diagnosed.
Webb served the Southland Conference as chair of its Board of Directors, and remained an enthusiastic advocate of the league throughout his presidential term, helping create stability among the membership.
When it came to national issues in intercollegiate athletics, Webb was an active participant while representing the Southland on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and the NCAA Executive Committee from 2001-05. He also served on the NCAA Division I Presidential Advisory Group from 2005-13.
A few months after his retirement, Webb was inducted into the Southland Conference Hall of Honor’s Class of 2015 last May.