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Celebrating Tommy Webb

Read the community announcement below from Head of School, Tracie Catlett.

When Tommy Webb welcomed me to GDS in July 2019, I knew I would have the honor to work with someone very special.
I learned that summer that my time with Tommy would be short after he shared his hopes and dreams to retire after celebrating GDS’s 50th birthday and his own 70th birthday later this spring. I knew this day was coming, but it doesn't make it any easier to say farewell to a GDS icon.

At the close of the 2020-21 school year, we will bid farewell to a true GDS legend, one that encompasses 39 years and hundreds, and likely thousands, of relationships that run deep and wide. Let's recap what can only be characterized as a remarkable career, highlighted by extraordinary relationships, institutional success, and a life fully lived to the benefit of our community.

Tommy Webb first came to Greensboro Day School in the summer of 1982, at the invitation of then Head of School, Jim Hendrix. Tommy embarked on his 39-year journey as an 8th grade English teacher. As one would expect, he wore many hats from the start; Tommy was the Upper School student newspaper advisor and a Middle School soccer coach.

As Tommy noted, Dr. Ed Dickinson, the Middle School Director at the time, was a "terrific mentor" in Tommy's early days at GDS. Mentorship would be a keynote in Tommy's career, having now launched hundreds of first-time teachers and administrators. 

Tommy understood the value of an independent education when he said yes to Jim Hendrix in 1982. Tommy is an alumnus of Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and spent the intervening years, following his graduation from UNC in 1973, teaching in independent and public schools.

In 1987, a year after Dr. Ralph Davison arrived at GDS, Tommy was appointed Director of Admissions and Financial Aid. For the next five years, Tommy taught two English classes, led the growth of the School's enrollment, and served as the Diversity Liaison to the Board of Trustees, and during this time, he became the keeper of the history of the School.

Tommy's commitment to GDS was growing deeper year by year, and Dr. Davison's recognition of Webb’s myriad of talents caused his job description to expand accordingly. By the mid-'90s, Tommy had been tapped to lead the School's effort in Admission, Development, and finally, as the Assistant Head of School overseeing auxiliaries, operations, and personnel. (All while Tommy was still teaching English!) 

Among the multiple outcomes of Tommy's development work over three decades were two capital campaigns while he was  Director of Development. The first campaign, a 5M goal, led by Campaign Chair Lanty Smith, and a second campaign for 10M, led by Jed Dunn were both successful. The list of buildings and grounds as a result of those added with campaigns included:
  • Smith and Hayes Upper School
  • Davison Center for the Arts
  • Dillard Gym
  • Parents’ Association Media Center
  • Parents’ Association Lower School wing
  • Many renovations to existing buildings
  • Numerous endowment additions

2006 saw the end of Davison’s tenure and the beginning of Mark Hale's term as the School's sixth Head of School. Tommy's loyal and faithful service to the school community beginning with the Heads of School continued through the Hale administration and into mine, thankfully! 

In the two most recent decades of service to the School, Tommy continued to build long-lasting relationships with every constituency in the School. It's not surprising to see an alumni parent, who may not have been on campus for 15 years or more, approach the front desk and ask if Mr. Webb is available. Greeted by a hearty “hello” from Tommy, off they would go to the office for a proper chat. Or, a student who graduated seven years earlier looking to give back to the School, to the School shaped by Tommy, while providing a foundational experience for so many who attended. And, there are the faculty and staff relationships, each unique, many beginning with their first campus tour. Parent relations flourished as well in Tommy's tenure. Remarkably, Tommy served as the administrative liaison to  GDS Parents' Association from the late '80s until 2019, more than 30 years. 

Tommy has served GDS through four of the School's seven Heads of School; each school leader has seen fit to provide Tommy opportunities to grow, each opportunity, of course, benefiting the School in innumerable ways. His length and depth of service to GDS are a testament to his character, appreciation of the community's values, and his love of all things GDS. Once a Bengal, always a Bengal!

Throughout his 39 years at GDS, Tommy's wife Anne, originally from Greensboro, and their two daughters Hart '00 and Keats '03, supported, advised and cheered him on. Thank you all for that! We are grateful for the entire Webb family.

Here’s a snapshot of Tommy’s past and what key people in his life had to say about him. Be ready for more blasts from the past to come as we spend the next seven months celebrating Tommy Webb and all of his contributions to our community near and far.  
"I came to GDS in 1986 as a young first-time Head of School filled with dreams for how this wonderful place could become one of the best independent schools in the South and even the nation. I met an even younger English teacher originally from Tennessee who had come to GDS a few years earlier. In him I saw a truly gifted teacher, and most importantly, one of the best people-persons I had ever come to know. Tommy Webb never forgot anyone. He genuinely loved people, and they loved him back. Tommy was destined for a larger role at GDS, and before long, I offered him the role of Assistant Headmaster. I never looked back, and neither did he. Literal generations of students and their families have been blessed with his smile that betrays a true admiration and affection for each individual he encounters. He saw the best in everyone, and they in turn gave their best to the school.”
Ralph Davison, Head of School 1986-2006
“Tommy Webb embodies what it means to be a professional in a school connecting students, families, and strong educational values. Throughout his tenure at Greensboro Day School, whatever position he has held, knowing and caring about students by name and by interest has led Tommy’s thinking and direction. He is a loyal supporter of the parents’ efforts to enrich the school. Tommy continues to work with students, faculty, and other administrators to help develop GDS as an incubator for academic excellence, ethical development, and student integrity. He leads with one hand out, the other hand at your back, and a huge smile on his face. Teacher, colleague, administrator, and friend, Tommy embodies all we celebrate as we lift up 50 outstanding years of people and education at Greensboro Day School.”
Ann Adams, former Director of Admission
“Tommy Webb. What can I say about the ultimate, “Mr. Nice Guy?” Mr. Webb is always a good listener! Mr. Webb always appreciates a job well done! Mr. Webb always sets the best example by doing “the right thing”! Greensboro Day School has been SO LUCKY to have Mr. Webb on staff in so many different capacities over the years!
So...............hip hip hooray!!! Cheers to Mr. Tommy Webb!
Mary Anne Conrad, Administrative Assistant, After School Programs
When I think of Tommy, I think of the quintessential Southern Gentleman. His graciousness, engaging smile, humility, and generosity warmly welcome everyone with whom he comes in contact. To be with Tommy is to experience someone who values you as you are and quietly supports and encourages you to be your best self. Always present, always ready to take the time to do whatever is necessary to promote and support students, parents, faculty and staff, Tommy is a shining example of what it means to be a servant leader.” 
Mark Hale, Head of School 2006 – 2019
Tommy, we wish you every good fortune as you begin “what's next.” We hope that your coming schedule will include more time for you and your family, perhaps some more time in Florence, Italy, post-COVID, of course! We will look forward to seeing you visit campus next fall, and from time to time as your schedule allows, but only after fully celebrating your career later this spring.  Until then, we look forward to celebrating you over the next seven months until your departing day on May 31, 2021.

Once a Bengal Always a Bengal,

Tracie Catlett
Head of School
Greensboro Day School develops the intellectual, ethical, and interpersonal foundations students need to become constructive contributors to the world.