William Ripley ’60 receives 2021 Colborn Distinguished Service Award
On any given day on the Webb campus, you may see Bill Ripley ’60 working the Archives, attending an event or working on an Alumni Weekend Chapel Service. He even has a permanent badge that announces him as “Bill Ripley ’60 – Volunteer” to complement his official Alumni Council nametag. After a career in both education and ministry, Bill fills his days with Webb happenings.
But what isn’t on an official identifier is his long history with Webb: as a student, a faculty member, a former interim headmaster, a class agent and reunion chair and a member of the alumni community who is always willing to chip in where needed.
Ripley’s history at Webb started in 1955 when he visited Webb and knew it was different.
“I toured Webb with my friend Rob Hall, and it felt neat,” he said.
On the opening day of 1956, Ripley was dropped off by his parents, who were assured by Vivian Webb that she would take care of him.
If you talk with Ripley about his time at Webb, you will hear a plethora of stories. From his first dorm room in the upper dormitory that was a converted hallway, to the shenanigans of his classmates, Ripley fondly recalls his days at Webb. While a student, he was active in the Blue & Gold, El Espejo, Rifle Club and Camera Club. He was also a track athlete all four years and even held a school record in the 660m race for a year. His family was ingrained in Webb; his mother was a trustee of the Alf Museum, his father was a trustee for Webb and his younger brother is a 1966 graduate.
It wasn’t just extracurriculars that had an impact on Ripley. He recalls being “majorly impacted” by his Spanish teacher, John Sumner.
“Mr. Sumner couldn’t find a textbook he liked, so he made his own. He was the one who taught me Spanish and gave me a love of the language,” Ripley said.
This part of his Webb education instilled the love of Spanish and shaped Ripley’s future. He went on to major in Spanish at the University of Redlands and completed a master’s degree in Spanish literature at Middlebury College in Madrid, Spain.
This path led him back to Webb as a Spanish teacher when Fred Hooper hired him to teach lower-level Spanish courses and serve as a college counselor.
“I modeled my teaching after John Sumner,” Ripley said.
Ripley fondly recalls taking the seniors on their class trip to the Grand Canyon each year.
Ripley owns the title of the only Webb alumnus to be headmaster of Webb. When then-headmaster Steve Longley was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1979, Ripley was offered the role of interim headmaster. He served for one year.
“I now know the strains of sitting in the front office. I have an appreciation and respect for Craig and Susan and Taylor, who have led this school in an amazing way. It was an honor to be the only alumnus to ever be a headmaster,” Ripley said.
After a year of being headmaster, and teaching for one more year after that, Ripley was ready for a change. He attended Princeton Seminary, starting a new career as a pastor. After leading congregations in Texas and California, Ripley returned to his love of teaching Spanish at various schools.
His career in ministry led to another way Ripley has continued to serve Webb as an alumni volunteer. For over 25 years, every Alumni Weekend, you can find Ripley leading the Alumni Chapel Service in the Vivian Webb Chapel. Even through a pandemic, Ripley led the chapel service through video so that Webb could maintain this time-honored tradition.
Currently, you can often find Ripley sorting through the countless items in the Webb Archives. Here he organizes Thompson Webb’s correspondence, years of Blue & Gold editions and thousands of other documents and pieces of Webb’s 100-year history. His rich knowledge of Webb has made him a valuable resource for the project.
Ripley attributes a lot of his character to his Webb education.
“Webb taught me the value of honor and being a person of your word. The virtues that we have cemented on the welcoming steps of campus are very meaningful to me. You can modify curriculum because of changing needs and culture, but there’s certain basic virtues that Webb stands for that should never be modified. My greatest successes in education were here. I wasn’t a stellar student, but I had an amazing experience here.”
We would be remiss if we didn’t share Ripley’s valuable advice to current Webb students.
“I steal two pieces of advice from Steve Longley. Don’t specialize too early. Keep your mind open as long as you can and stay open and flexible. Strive to be the best you can be, no matter what society expects of you. And don’t forget The Webb Schools.”
For his years of continued, committed service to Webb, we are very proud to award Ripley the 2021 Colborn Distinguished Service Award. This alumnus has consistently given his time, talents and treasure to Webb.
“Receiving the Ken Colborn award is extremely meaningful to me. Ken was a dear friend of mine and I used to watch him on campus doing little things. If I can just contribute a little piece of what he did, that would be great.”
Ripley has definitely contributed more than just a little piece of his life, and for that we thank him. In the words of, first, Ray Alf, and now Bill Ripley, “Laudate Deum!”
Nominations are open for the 2022 Alumni Awards. Submit your nominations by June 30. Nominate someone here.