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…
to update the sign weekly. Now it’s empty…
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.
Inside it is a plaque containing a poem.
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.
when I attended Westmar. I guess it used to be the
largest gymnasium in the area at one time…
It’s sitting on the cornerstones of some of the earliest buildings on campus.
Thoren Hall (which was the tallest structure in this part of the state).
funeral home and a fire department in the “back yard.”
It was odd to see a street running between Centennial and the Commons.
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…
i hate when stuff like that changes….
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.
Well, you know where one of the staff wandered off to after they deserted that sinking ship… 🙂
I’ll talk more later, got work to do.
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.
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.
Thanks for these photos and thoughtful comments, Chris. I know there are many who will appreciate this site.
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
Thanks for the photos and commentary. It will help me on my Westmar website, The Unofficial Westmar College website
Nice pics. Thanks for the preview for this weekend. I plan to be there for the reunion. See you there!
Tim Wilson (class of ’88)
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!
Chris, Thanks so much for the trip down memory lane (or Elm Street).
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.
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.
Wow! It has been 35 years since I graduated and left Westmar. I have never returned until today, through your pictures. I’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 ’72)