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The Women’s Institute Remembers Alida Webb

Alida Webb served as Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for 35 years She passed away on Tuesday, the 10th of January 2023. She was 80 years of age. She is remembered fondly and with the utmost respect by both students and instructors, many of whom have offered tributes to her memory… 

“Before she became Executive Director, Alida was an active class participant.  She served as Executive Director from 1981 to 2016.  After she retired, she continued to be active taking classes. She was the heart of the Women’s Institute for so many years and played a major role in its continued success over her tenure.” – Cynthia Brown

“Until her retirement, Alida was the face of the Women’s Institute.  First at the old location on Westgate and then at the “new” and present headquarters around the corner on Avalon. Alida was the constant that kept the Institute going as the center for adult education in Houston.  From her desk this remarkable woman attracted the best faculty in Houston, and the most enthusiastic and learned students. Through good times and bad, the Women’s Institute provided Houston’s women (and men) with unrivalled opportunities to enrich their academic, cultural and social lives.  Even after retirement, Alida continued to be a welcome presence in the life and activities of the institution, and her love for, and guidance to it, will be sorely missed as the Women’s Institute carries on her legacy.” – Barry Greenlaw

“When I started teaching at the Women’s Institute in 1971, Alida was there and helped me feel both important and comfortable, and then for about forty years she was, for me, the essence of WIH: friendly, interested in what I was teaching, crucially important helping me set up my movie stuff when I started teaching film in some of my courses, knowledgeable about the people taking my class, and invaluable in organizing all that went on there. In an important way, she represented so much that was warm, welcoming, and wonderful about the Women’s Institute. I’m sure all who knew her will remember her as fondly as I do.” – Dennis Huston

“Alida crafted a special blend of diversity as the Director of the Women’s Institute of Houston. As I recall, she first invited me to submit a short lecture series in 2007. How carefully she tweaked my course description! Her knowledge of scripture was truly impressive, her broad education in world culture was deep and engaging, and her interest in each individual she “hired” (better, “invited”) to teach was both flattering and probing. She sat in on my first class and then (for many years after) continued to sit in on my classes whenever she could. She never once spoke in class—allowing the enrolled attendees to be the participants—but after class or before the next class she checked and rechecked and interrogated and shared her thoughts, her philosophy, her religious positions. How could we not be friends? 
Her concern was ever the welfare of the students and the Institute. Every student felt engaged by her, even as all of us (the faculty who came from universities, congregations, lecture circuits, organizations to lecture at WIH where there were no full-time opportunities, no sabbaticals, and no sizable salaries) felt nurtured and supported by her. Alida Webb was the center of the center. Every new proposed course had to pass muster with her because she knew how her loyal people would respond. And her loyal attendees were women and men, age being of no matter, race and religion being of no concern, who came with open minds and open hearts and found that she could guide them from one instructor to another, from one topic to another, from one cohort to another.
It is fair to say that, for as long as I know, the Women’s Institute has had an uncanny knack for finding talented, insightful, and personable folk to take the helm as Director. It is also fair to say that Alida was outstanding among them in all of these respects. She could speak one on one with everyone in an authentic voice, putting her eyes on yours, giving you her full attention, arguing with humor and simple reason, making moments with her worth spending. I shall miss her greatly. May her memory be a blessing.” – Rabbi Seymour Rossel

“Alida lived from “the inside out.”  That is to say, she exemplified kindness, intelligence, and loyalty to her convictions and to the people in whom she strongly believed. She exhibited strength in the face of adversity.  She walked in grace and love. In courage. In a quiet beauty.  And, oh, how she loved books!  Books were among her friends.  It was fun to observe her excitement about a book she’d discovered and come to respect and adore.  And how wonderful it was that she freely shared her creative, and often profound, ideas with others. No wonder she was for decades the Executive Director of The Women’s Institute of Houston. How graciously she welcomed all who came through its doors to share and to learn.  And how very much she appreciated and encouraged those with vision. Certainly, she herself — lovely leader and friend — possessed the kind of vision that inspired, challenged, and encouraged so very many who will remain grateful and blessed to have known her.” – Nancy Geyer 

“One Friday morning I popped by WIH. Alida had her dog with her. She was so full of joy playing with her dog. She was like a kid.  This was one of the few times she took off her Executive Director hat. Mostly she was a mentor to me. She was calm and steady. She would say, let’s just give it time to work itself out. It could be anything from a parking issue to a cookie shortage. My biggest and fondest memory of Alida was her long-standing, complete dedication to making The Women’s Institute a place to learn and be with like-minded women.” – Mary Lee Wallace

“Alida was the soul of what made the Women’s Institute such a wonderful and unique place of learning for 35 many years.” – Fernando Casas

“Alida will always have a special place in my memory.  Working at the Women’s Institute I met Alida in 1981.  We had a great time putting together the Year Book and the Cultural Studies over the years until I retired from my Graphic Arts Business in the 1990s.  We had a wonderful working relationship.  She always saw to it that everything was perfect.  She also encouraged the exhibits that I brought to the Women’s Institute.  Truly, she was a wonderful person and I am so glad our paths not only crossed, but we traveled down the same road for years.  She was so dedicated to the Women’s Institute and made the Women’s Institute a force in Houston that will always be remembered, laying a strong foundation.” – Suzanne C. Street  

“Alida was my first contact with WIH.  I met her when I owned my store. She was kind enough to bring me in as an instructor later after I started my stylist business.  I will always remember her low key personality and sweet smile.  She will be missed.” – Ruth Chow-Kneese