Columbus North High School alumni have founded a new scholarship honoring a beloved English teacher.
The Webb Salmon Excellence in English Scholarship will be administered by the Bull Dog Alumni Association, officials said in a recent release. The scholarship is named for former teacher Ollie “Webb” Salmon, who died on Dec. 15, 2020 at the age of 95. Salmon taught at Columbus High School, now known as Columbus North, in the ’50s and ’60s and was chairman of the English department.
“We were approached by a group of former students whose lives were impacted so positively by Webb Salmon,” said Executive Director Hedy George. “He was a positive influence in the lives of so many and we were honored when asked to manage an endowment in his memory.”
The group of former students, led by Larry Long of the Class of 1960, is raising funds with the goal of building an endowment to fund an annual $10,000 scholarship. The scholarship will be awarded to “an outstanding Bull Dog senior who has demonstrated excellence in academics — especially English, Creative Writing and Literature.” Preference will be given to students who have a financial need, are first generation college entrants or are studying to become a teacher.
The founding group has pledged more than $25,000 to the cause and is looking to find potential donors, particularly those who have experienced “the passion and magic of Webb Salmon’s teaching.”
Association officials noted that during his 14 years teaching at Columbus High School, Salmon inspired “future writers, teachers and business people — not to mention life-long lovers of language and literature.”
Prior to becoming a teacher, Salmon served as a machine gunner in World War II. He earned the Combat Infantry Badge and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a V device for Valor.
Following his war service, Salmon attended college on the G.I. Bill and earned his Masters in English at the University of Chattanooga. His first year of teaching was in Munford, Alabama, followed by two years in Chattanooga. According to Columbus North’s alumni association, Salmon taught at Columbus High School from 1952 to 1966.
He become a recognized expert on the art of teaching writing and led workshops for high school teachers around the country. After teaching summer workshops at Florida State University in the mid-1960s, Salmon was offered a position developing their freshman writing program, supervising graduate assistants and training them to teach writing.
After retiring in 1991, Salmon and his wife, Joyce, moved to Alabama to help his aging mother for several years. They later returned to their home in Tallahassee to be close to their children and grandchildren.
Some of Salmon’s former students maintained correspondence with him for more than 60 years and have attested to the impact he had on their lives. Gerald Ensley, former writer for the Tallahassee Democrat, has said that Webb Salmon is the one teacher who taught him to read critically.
Another student, Clifford “Skip” Lindeman, recalled Salmon’s sense of humor when the two of them were discussing Lindeman’s term paper.
“He told me that I would graduate, and so I said, ‘Then my term paper is GOOD!’” Lindeman wrote in an comment on Salmon’s online obituary. “Mr. Salmon replied, ‘I didn’t say that. I just said you’ll graduate.’”
Susan Hathaway Tantillo also commented on the obituary, fondly recalling time spent with “this larger-than-life educator” and his impact on her life.
“He challenged us to think deeply about the literature we read,” she said. “He conferenced with us individually about our lit-based research papers and insisted we defend every idea. He inspired me to follow in his footsteps and become a HS English teacher, a fulfilling career I loved for 30 years.”