James Thomas West ’49

James Thomas West ’49, 84, of St. Petersburg, Fla., passed away March 13 peacefully in his home. Preceded in death by parents, James Alexander and Helen Venable Bridges West, and sisters, Ann McGill West Garrett and Isabel Blair West Graham. Survived by sons, James Frazier West and Mark Thomas West (Andrea); daughters, Julia Kathryn West, 1470 Serpentine Dr. S., St. Petersburg, FL 33705-6148, and Wendi Elizabeth West; granddaughter, Julia Nichole Bower; and grandson, Nathan Thomas West; nieces and nephews; friend and former wife, Shirley “Ann” Frazier West; and many friends and colleagues. West served in the Army Air Corps during WWII. A graduate of Davidson with a B.S. in psychology, he earned an M.A. in psychology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. West was director of mental health education for the State of Tennessee and served as adjunct professor for both Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee. He was a founding faculty member of Eckerd College, formerly Florida Presbyterian College, and he served as its first director of admissions. He drove from town to town, knocking on doors and meeting with potential students to tell them about this “daring, different, and innovative” new college. He served as dean of men, director of counseling, and professor of psychology. He, along with his colleague and friend, Sarah K. Dean, designed, developed, and implemented the human development program. Upon retiring, he became director of the Program for Experienced Learners (PEL) at the college. At the 2009 Eckerd College commencement, West, a true visionary and humanitarian, was awarded an honorary doctorate and lauded for his 50 years of service to the college. He received several awards, including the Robert A. Staub Distinguished Teacher Award, during his tenure there. He trained under Ida P. Rolf, who developed a system of body structure organization called Rolfing Structural Integration, and was a certified advanced Rolfer in private practice for 37 years. Thousands have benefited from his intuitive work connecting body and mind. Known for being on the cutting edge for new ideas about psychological and alternative health, his influence is inestimable. He was an avid tennis player and had been a tennis coach in early years of his career. He was also a passionate supporter and activist for the Tibetan cause and traveled to Tibet, Nepal, and India to offer his solidarity.