Roosevelt Islander Online: Long Times Roosevelt Island Resident And Prominent Educator Arnold Webb Passed Away August 6 At Age Of 94

Long time Roosevelt Island resident Arnold Webb died on August 6, 2021.

Arnold W. Webb, a prominent Black educator in the New York area and beyond, died at the age of 94 at the Mary Manning Walsh Rehabilitation Center in Manhattan on August 6th.

Dr. Webb enjoyed a career of over fifty years at every level of education, from classroom teacher to the upper echelons of the New York City school system. During this period, Dr. Webb also served on the boards of several educational and cultural institutions, such as the Lincoln Center Institute, Young Audiences and the Eliot Feld Ballet Company.

His areas of professional expertise included urban education, language skills development, school restructuring and educational finance. In addition to being a senior author of Language Arts textbooks for Macmillan/McGraw Hill, Dr. Webb served as a consultant and guest lecturer on education throughout the United States.

Arnold Whitfield Webb was born in Brooklyn on July 11th, 1927. His father, Harold Webb, was a salesman from Washington, D.C. His mother, Olive Webb (Dowers), a homemaker, was from St. Vincent in the West Indies. His only sibling, Harold Webb, Jr. predeceased him.

During the Depression the family moved to Sheepshead Bay, where Arnold grew up. After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School at 16, Arnold matriculated at Brooklyn College. He interrupted his studies to enlist in the Army, serving in the Army of Occupation in post-war Germany. After his discharge from the service, Arnold returned to Brooklyn College, where he became a standout member of the track team, competing in the high jump and hurdles. At this time, Arnold also joined the famous integrated Pioneer Track Club in Harlem.

Thanks to Arnold’s exemplary skills as a runner, the State Department chose him to be part of a globetrotting track team that toured Europe in the aftermath of World War II. 

Upon earning his Masters from Columbia University, Arnold entered the New York City school system as a high school English teacher. Thanks to his extraordinary teaching skills and rapport with students and staff, Arnold rose quickly through the ranks,ultimately joining central headquarters of the NYC Board of Education in 1967.

Dr. Webb was appointed as the Director of Planning, Programming and Budgeting in 1968 and was elevated to Executive Director of the Division of Curriculum and Instruction in 1975, where he was responsible for system wide curriculum development and instruction for grades K-12. In 1976, during his tenure at the Board of Education, Arnold earned his PhD in Educational Finance at New York University.

Dr. Webb became the Dean of the School of Education at the City College of New York in 1979. After serving as dean for four years, Arnold was tapped to join the New Jersey State Department of Education as Assistant Commissioner for Educational Programs. In 1985, after a prestigious career of over 35 years in public education, Arnold entered the private sector, becoming a consultant with a Philadelphia based educational laboratory, Research for Better Schools.
In 1994, he became a freelance consultant, only to resume full time work in 2007 with New York based RMC Research Corporation. Arnold finally retired in 2011 at the age of 84.

Arnold balanced a successful and demanding career with many leadership roles in organizations outside of work. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Rivercross co-op building for thirty years, serving as President or Vice President for several of those years. Arnold was also a member of the Brooklyn Guardsmen, Alpha Sigma Boule, and Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

One of the fields in which he took great pleasure was the art of photography. Arnold was a skilled amateur photographer who delighted friends and family with stunning black and white portraits and landscape photos taken on his beloved Martha’s Vineyard or during his numerous foreign trips with his wife Gwen. He was an avid golfer who cherished his time on the links with good buddies Dr. Lamar Miller, Dr. Basil Jones and Dr. Steve Freeman. Arnold was an adept poker player who looked forward to monthly games with a group that started in the 1950’s.

A true renaissance man, Arnold loved poetry and Shakespeare, theater, dance and film. It must be said, though, that he merely tolerated opera out of devotion to Gwen.

Arnold leaves behind his beloved wife of 54 years, the former Gwen Martin, his daughter Lisa Davis (Anthony), son Tony Davis (Celestina), grandchildren Omar, Monique, Davey, Yolanda, Martin, Marcus and Noelle, devoted niece Stephanie (Ali) and nephews, Brian and Erich, and many other family and friends who will treasure his memory. Arnold contributed so much to so many. He was deeply loved and will be sorely missed.

Condolences to Arnold Webb’s family, friends and neighbors.


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