Webber Academy founder remembers Endiang roots

The prestigious Webber Academy in southwest Calgary has added a 500- seat, state-of-the-art Performing Arts Centre to its campus.

An Endiang delegation joins Webber Academy founder and president Dr. Neil Webber at the grand-opening gala in Calgary last week. From left are Les Stulberg

The prestigious Webber Academy in southwest Calgary has added a 500- seat, state-of-the-art Performing Arts Centre to its campus. The opening of the $15-million addition was marked with a grand opening concert series, including an invitational gala, last Wednesday evening.

The guests included an Endiang delegation.

The renowned private school has a local connection through its founder and president, Dr. Neil Webber. The Webber family has deep roots in the Endiang community, where Webber spent much of his younger life.

“I am proud to have spent many years of my youth being raised at Endiang, where there are so many great down-to-earth people who have values that are so important to success in life,” said Webber, 76.

When the community of Endiang held its centennial celebration in 2010, Webber was asked to be parade marshal. He said he wanted to reciprocate the honour by inviting a group from the Endiang centennial committee to the gala.

“The meaning of neighbours is so different in the city than it was at Endiang,” he said. “At Endiang, you knew people for many miles around and the sense of community was such that neighbours helped neighbours who needed help at times.”

Representing Endiang at the gala were Terry Gallant, Art Gutsche, Doreen Nixon, Winnie Paulsen, Eleanor Schultz, Ken Schultz, Les Stulberg and Marlene Wallace.

Some of those attending were former classmates of Webber’s. Gutsche, Paulsen and both of the Schultzs reminisced with Webber about their Endiang school days many years ago.

“So many great memories came back while visiting with the Endiang group,” Webber said.

Gala guests were treated to a concert by New York entertainer, La La Brooks, an original member of the legendary 1960s’ girl group “The Crystals.” The group is best known for hits such as “Then He Kissed Me,” “He’s a Rebel” and “Da Doo Ron Ron.”

Webber’s grandparents, Albert and Elizabeth Webber, took a homestead at Endiang in 1914. Their son Charles became a grain elevator agent at Veldt, Leo, Big Valley and Craigmyle, before taking over the family farm at Endiang.

Charles Webber and his wife Katherine had nine children — Neil being the eldest.

Neil attended Endiang School until Grade 10, the highest grade offered there at the time, then completed high school and graduated in Castor.

Neil, like most of his siblings and mother, had a penchant for education and was involved in the teaching profession. He taught at Mount Royal College prior to being elected the MLA for Calgary-Bow — serving four terms.

Neil and his wife Dorothy have five children, four of whom are involved in the academy. Their other son, Len Webber, MLA for Calgary-Foothills since 2004, was involved with the academy until entering politics.

After retiring from politics, Neil Webber established the Webber Academy in 1997, in a rented facility with 82 students and a mission to prepare students to thrive in university and beyond.

Webber said he observed during his teaching career that kids who had struggles usually got more help, but the advanced learners had to fend for themselves and seldom had the extra help to develop their full potential as future leaders.

In 2001, the academy opened their new facility on 47 acres overlooking the foothills and mountains. Today, the elite academy has 888 students registered, from junior kindergarten to Grade 12. The popular school’s classes are booked full until 2014.

The Webbers have 10 grandchildren and all are attending or have attended the family-run academy.

The highly-esteemed academy has an impressive record of achievement.

For the past five years, the Fraser Institute’s Report Cards on Alberta Schools has ranked Webber Academy first at the elementary level, as well as first or tied for first three times in the last six years at the senior high level.

Webber Academy students have also finished first in Alberta on the Grade 9 provincial achievement tests for the past five years.

From the seven graduating classes, 99 per cent of those students went on to university.

The academy requires students to learn at least one other language up to graduation.

Webber Academy’s academic-focus is well-known, but it also offers a full-range of options to complement the core subjects. Fine arts — including art, music and drama; options — computer science and multimedia; extracurricular — debate club and speech tournaments; as well as athletics and citizenship add to a well-rounded educational experience.

The academy feels the arts play a major role in the development of students, and believes music enhances intelligence and drama provides students the opportunity to explore creativity.

The school has seen incredible growth and success and the opening of the Performing Arts Centre will be seen as a milestone in the school’s history.

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