Education

Long-serving C.R. school board member Westercamp dies

He is remembered as a compassionate public servant

Keith Westercamp, Board of Education Director for District 3, looks on during the public comments section in a meeting of the Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education at Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 25, 2016. The Board of Education was listening to public comments on the proposed plan to eliminate school librarians from Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Kennedy High Schools. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Keith Westercamp, Board of Education Director for District 3, looks on during the public comments section in a meeting of the Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education at Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 25, 2016. The Board of Education was listening to public comments on the proposed plan to eliminate school librarians from Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Kennedy High Schools. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Keith Westercamp, one of the longest-serving members of the Cedar Rapids school board, died Feb. 20. He was 71.

First elected to the board in 1997 and a member until late 2016, Westercamp leaves a legacy of caring and compassionate public service, his colleagues said.

“He provided a perspective that was thoughtful and inclusive,” said Mary Meisterling, whose time on the school board overlapped with Westercamp’s for 15 years. “He will be sorely missed and has been sorely missed in the last two years. ... His input was valuable and thoughtful, and normally from a perspective I hadn’t considered.”

The husband of a Cedar Rapids teacher of 33 years, Barb, and father to four children who attended Cedar Rapids schools, Westercamp remained committed to advancing the district long after their retirement and graduations.

“He was a really terrific public servant who had a strong belief in public education and equity for all students,” Meisterling said.

Over nearly two decades, Westercamp was instrumental in the hires of three Cedar Rapids Community School District superintendents: David Markward, Dave Benson and Brad Buck.

“He was very proud of that,” said Laurel Day, the school board secretary since 1994. “There was no one more proud of this school district than Keith Westercamp and his family.”

During his hiring process in 2015, Buck recalled, Westercamp’s expressed interest in moving the district toward innovation as well as closing achievement gaps among students.

“He was caring and compassionate, very kind, and he had a very patient demeanor,” Buck said. “He was a person of fewer words and very thoughtful. You’d watch him in (school board) meetings, and he was very thoughtful about making sure he was listening to multiple perspectives, and when he did speak he had really thought through what he wanted to get communicated.”

A licensed real estate broker and founder of Appraisal Associates, Westercamp brought a background as a businessman to board discussions, Board President Nancy Humbles said. Westercamp’s term ended after a lost re-election bid in 2016.

“His love for this community and this district — that will be his legacy,” Humbles said.

Westercamp was a graduate of Iowa State University, where he studied agronomy and farm operations after growing up on his family’s farm in southern Iowa.

He went on to receive a master’s in business administration from the University of Iowa, where he later would be an adjunct professor.

Aside from his work and demeanor in the boardroom, Buck said he’ll remember Westercamp for zipping away in one of his slinky sports cars after spring high school graduation ceremonies.

“Especially if it was a really nice, warm night, he’d be there in one of these cars with the top down,” Buck recalled. “He would come out and jump in this little two-seater, and head off into the evening.”

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Visitation services for Westercamp are scheduled from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Friday at Cedar Memorial Funeral Home. His funeral is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Marion.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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