Thompson Webb graduated from the Webb School of Bell Buckle in 1907, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill before beginning a career as a farmer in Southern California’s Coachella Valley. He married Vivian Howell in 1915. After a failed onion crop in 1918, Thompson accepted an invitation to join the faculty at his father’s school.
While teaching in Tennessee, Thompson received a letter from a well-respected educator in California telling him of an abandoned school in Claremont, California. He encouraged Thompson to make a deal for the land and start a school of his own. In the fall of 1922, Thompson Webb opened Webb School of California with 14 boys and four teachers.
Thompson’s influence on education in America goes beyond the 40 years he served as headmaster of Webb School of California — he was instrumental in the founding and organization of the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) in the 1940s. Thompson was also a vital force in the establishment of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), which was modeled after the California association.
In 2022, The Webb Schools will celebrate 100 years of growth, innovation and unbounded thinking.
Hooper Community Center
Hooper Center, originally Webb's first gymnasium, was converted to a student center in 1981. In 2020, the building was renovated and expanded to be a hub for the Webb community.
Campus doubles to 150 acres
Webb purchases nearly 80 acres of hillside to prevent development of homes and provide for future growth.
The tradition of astronomy at Webb goes back to the mid-1930s. In February 2000, the Hefner Observatory was dedicated, replacing an aircraft carrier radar dome produced in the mid-1900s.
Alf Museum Accredited
Under the leadership of the museum’s third director, Dr. Don Lofgren, the museum launched a major drive to upgrade operations to conform to national professional standards. In 1998, the museum gained accreditation from the American Association of Museums, an honor less than 5 percent of the museums in the USA can claim.
Vivian Webb School
In 1981, the Vivian Webb School for girls was founded as a day school. Located on the Webb campus, the school offered single-gender courses to 34 girls in its first year.
Raymond M. Alf Museum
In 1968, Webb opened the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. Webb trustee Millard Sheets, a renowned artist and architectural designer, designed the circular building as a paean to a time spiral Alf used to describe the history of life. Sheets added one of his iconic mosaics over the door: a peccary surrounded by flames representing Alf's inspiration.
Acting on the advice of his four sons – all teachers – Thompson Webb rejects offers to buy the school campus to make way for housing. Instead, he launches a nonprofit corporation to run the school in perpetuity.
Vivian Webb Chapel
Styled by Webb founder Thompson Webb after the famous mission in San Juan Capistrano, construction of the chapel began in 1939. Over 60,000 adobe bricks, each weighing about 60 pounds, were shaped, forged and dried from clay taken from the Webb campus. Each brick was hand-formed by Thompson Webb and laid by himself, teachers, students and even visiting dignitaries.
In 1936, Bill Webb '39 – son of headmaster Thompson Webb – stumbled across the fossil skull of undiscovered species of peccary, igniting a drive for fossil hunting by science teacher Ray Alf that would form the basis for the school's nationally accredited paleontology museum. The fossil hunters dubbed themselves the Peccary Society.
Webb School of California
In 1992, Thompson Webb founded Webb School of California with 14 boys and an unbounded spirit of learning and discovery.
Our Promise for the Next 100 Years
Our Centennial Campaign
Permanent and lasting. As Webb celebrates its first 100 years while preparing for the future, we know we must accomplish three important goals as part of a Centennial Campaign. First, we must make our values and mission permanent by endowing Webb for the decades of growth and opportunity that lie ahead. Second, we must continue to transform our campus to meet the evolving needs of our students, including classrooms, laboratories, dormitories and faculty homes. And third, we must continue to provide leadership support to our current students and faculty as they carry out their important work on campus today. All of these goals are central to our Centennial Campaign, which launched its public phase on Oct. 23, 2021.
Our Promise for The Next 100
To learn more about how you can get involved in The Centennial and support Webb, please look for more information in Alumni, Parents and Support, or on our dedicated Centennial Campaign website, webb100.org.