Westmar Woes

The Campus is Gone, Sort Of…

Yesterday I took a few hours and rode my motorcycle around. After an hour or so of tootling about the countryside, I ended up in my hometown, LeMars. I decided to swing past the old campus to see what’s changed. Turns out that quite a bit has changed…

I went to Westmar College from the fall of 1986 off and on until I graduated in 1992 or 1993. You know, I always thought that Westmar was going to be my life – I was going to go to school there, get my degree, work there for a while in the Communications Department, and eventually end up teaching there. It never occurred to me that I would ever leave the warm bosom of the campus… But life intervened and I ended up working for a living some 30 miles away in Sioux City.

It also never occurred to me that Westmar may not even exist someday. But in the fall of 1997 the college closed, after 107 years of higher education… For a campus that covered a mere eight square blocks (more or less, give or take) it sure held a lot of memories for a lot of people!

Some of the buildings are simply gone (Wernli, Dubs and Thoren Halls, and that old dorm between Bonebrake and Weidler), others are being “repurposed” (the library was a church for a few years, Weidler is home of a mental health institution, the dorms are now apartments, etc.). But for me the biggest change was the “Memorial Park.” In the space where Dubs, Thoren and Wernli were is now a memorial to America’s veterans. I won’t bore you with all the memories I have of Westmar (and I have a LOT), but I will tell you it was rather emotional for me to wander through the campus, thinking of people now scattered the world over, remembering buildings that aren’t there, wondering where the faculty and staff ended up…

I took pictures. As usual, you can click on any photo to see a larger image…

The old “Activity Sign.” For years it was my job
to update the sign weekly. Now it’s empty…

The Library, with a “For Sale” sign in front.

Part of the new veteran’s memorial. Interestingly enough, between the
jeep and the church there used to be two buildings that housed the mail room
and the Institutional Advancement office. Those two buildings were “repurposed” military barracks. They’ve been torn down now.

This new structure stands in what used to be the amphitheater.
Inside it is a plaque containing a poem.

Circling this monument are a number of plaques, one for each war the
United States has fought, listing the number of casualties.
There is no plaque for the Iraq war yet, oddly enough,
nor did I see space set aside for it.
You can see the “new gym” behind it.

Another view of the statue and plaques.

The art building. At least, that’s what it was used for
when I attended Westmar. I guess it used to be the
largest gymnasium in the area at one time…

A memorial to Dubs and Wernli halls

A closeup of the plaque on the above memorial…

This statue is how I felt, too. Despair.
It’s sitting on the cornerstones of some of the earliest buildings on campus.

This gate used to be the main entrance to the campus, leading to
Thoren Hall (which was the tallest structure in this part of the state).

Another view of the gate

The science hall still looks like it’s in good shape!

Westy the Eagle

The entrance to Weidler.

Bonebrake still looks like it used to, though there is now a
funeral home and a fire department in the “back yard.”

I’m happy the city is using the gym as a Community Wellness Center.

The Commons is now used for a Convention Center.

Centennial used to be a men’s dorm.
It was odd to see a street running between Centennial and the Commons.

Between Memorial and the Library there’s now a water tower.

Back to the start of the tour…

There is a web site dedicated to Westmar HERE. I also found out that there will be a reunion of “The Decade of the Eighties” this summer, July 8 and 9. You can sign up on the web site. I hope to be there…

If you’re reading this on Facebook, you can see the original blog at www.radloffs.net, click on “Blog.”

14 thoughts on “Westmar Woes

  1. Chris

    Yeah… You expect things to change a little, but to have your entire alma mater just sort of disappear is odd. Sad that they tore down a bunch of the buildings. It was an eerie feeling. I felt almost like I was walking over graves.

  2. Anonymous

    Well, you know where one of the staff wandered off to after they deserted that sinking ship… šŸ™‚

    I’ll talk more later, got work to do.


  3. Anonymous

    Just a few quick thoughts after looking at the pictures.

    1) Nobody seems to have stolen that damn Eagle since we left? Didn’t that used to disappear every year?

    2) I find it fitting that at least one of the two buildings that Dan the firebug set of fire are still standing.

    3) Every time I see pictures of Memorial I wonder if the plywood Westy with Eddie’s tigerskin panties is still in the basement.


  4. Odysseus

    Education is the only vehicle in which the world can grow in peace and understanding. For that reason we’ve made sure it will never happen here again.

    Who abandoned that broken down old jeep on the veterans’ memorial? Oh, it IS the memorial? How fitting.

  5. Anonymous

    Thanks for these photos and thoughtful comments, Chris. I know there are many who will appreciate this site.

  6. VJ Pulver

    Chris, your photos brought back great memories for Mark and me too…lots of great times there. It is erie to wander around in a ghost town of memories isn’t it? Every base (except 1) that I served at during my Air Force career has closed down so I know what an odd feeling it is. It is like your life is disappearing somehow… Thanks for sharing the photos!

    From Kiev, on a Sunny Summer Day
    Read our Journals

  7. Jay

    Hi Chris! Man I hadn’t thought about Westmar in years. It kind of made me feel like the statue too. I made a lot of good friends there. Just another part of our childhood disappearing. Thanks for the pics and notes!


  8. Tina

    I think its really cool the pictures that you took I was a freshman at westmar the year that it closed and I think that was one of the hardest things to deal with after making so many friends and so many memories in a short period of time.

  9. Anonymous

    Hi, Just curious if there is a sense of an empty world that was once inhabited or are have all the buildings now been repurposed and are in use in different ways?

    I think the westmar.org link cited at the end is no longer…is it now westmarcollege.org or westmarcollege.itgo.com, or something else entirely?

    Thanks for sharing your photos.

  10. Anonymous

    Wow! It has been 35 years since I graduated and left Westmar. I have never returned until today, through your pictures. Iā€™m saddened by much of what I see but I am overwhelmed with great memories of that period of my life that have rushed back.

    Thanks for taking the time to share.

    Tim Richert (Class of ā€™72)


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