Dr. Carl O. Westbrook, President Emeritus of Connor State College and decorated World War II veteran, passed from this life on Friday, March 30, 2018 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was 95 years old.
Born on October 25, 1922, Westbrook was raised in Houston and graduated from Aldine High School. Westbrook joined the Navy and was stationed in Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Theater during World War II. He served his country with distinction as a B-17 tail gunner receiving the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (2 Star), as well as the American Campaign Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. While in the Navy, he also claimed the featherweight title in the Golden Gloves. He was Honorably Discharged in 1946.
Westbrook received his bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University and his master’s degree from the University of Houston, both focusing on agriculture education. While principal at Canutillo High School, north of El Paso, TX, he met and fell in love with Emily Ulibarri, a Spanish teacher. They married in 1962 and, after receiving an education specialist degree from New Mexico State University, he and Emily moved to Bogota, Colombia as part of a United States National Education Association contingent to build that country’s higher education curriculum for agricultural studies. In recognition of his educational contributions to Colombia, he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Universidad de Bogota.
Returning to the United States in 1966, Westbrook continued his career in higher education, receiving his doctorate from Oklahoma State University and securing his first administrative position as campus director of El Rito Community College (now Northern New Mexico College). Throughout his career, Westbrook also held the positions of President of New Mexico State University (Grants campus), Dean of Students at Sul Ross State University (Alpine, TX), President of Lamar Community College (Lamar, CO), President of Connors State College (Warner, OK) where he finished his career in higher education in 1994 with great distinction. He was brought out of retirement 1995 to be Interim President of Oklahoma Panhandle State University (Goodwell, OK).
As the 13th president of Connors State College, Westbrook grew the enrollment of the college from 900 to 2,500 students, launched innovative new programs in nursing, equine technology and child development, opened a branch campus in Muskogee, OK, saw the school win two national championships in men’s and women’s basketball and acquired a 1,300-acre ranch that today stands as a living laboratory for research and learning opportunities for students. At the time of his retirement, Connors State was the largest non-urban junior college in Oklahoma.
Dr. Westbrook was a Rotarian for over 35 years and was recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. In 2014, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Association of Community Colleges Hall of Fame. The Carl Westbrook Library and Learning Center at Connors State College celebrates his legacy in advancing education in Oklahoma.
Carl O. Westbrook was preceded in death by his wife of 45 years, Emily. He is survived by his son, Vincent, and his wife, Mary, and their three children, Vincent II, Patrick, and Mary Elizabeth; his daughter, Carla Westbrook Spaniel and her husband, Keith, and their children, Emily and Warren. All will remember Carl’s sparking blue eyes and easy smile, the beautiful shared sunsets on Arrow W Ranch in Nowata County, and the very precious moment when he left this life to rejoin his beloved Emily as he was surrounded by those whom he loved most in this world.
Services are will be held in New Mexico with the rosary scheduled for Sunday, April 8, 2018 at 7:00 pm at La Paz-Graham’s Funeral Home 555 West Amador Ave., Las Cruces, NM and the funeral, Monday, April 9, 2019 at 10:00 am at St. Genevieve Catholic Church 100 S. Espina, Las Cruces NM.
Dr. Westbrook’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Dr. Carl O. Westbrook scholarship at Connors State College.