Centenary College Dean Remembered as a Unifier, a Friend to All

Courtesy of the Shreveport Times

By Icess Fernandez * email * September 4, 2009

An hour before David Womack died, the dean of students at Centenary College sent an e-card to his wife, Elizabeth Henning, just because he loved her.

"I wanted to send you a card to tell you I love you and miss you very much," Henning read during her husband's memorial service Thursday."... Please know how deep my love is for you."

Womack, 49, collapsed and died Saturday on a practice tee at Olde Oaks Golf Club in Bossier Parish.

Stories were shared, tears were shed and there was even a chuckle or two Thursday, all for a man who will be remembered as a unifier on private Shreveport school's campus.

The memorial audience was a mix of students, administrators and alumni who filled the on-campus chapel. Some students, like the college's dance and cheer team honored Womack by wearing T-shirts dedicated to him.

"I know it's God's plan, but I'm very thankful we got to have time with him," said Chelsea Liles, a senior math major.

The T-shirts were appropriately humorous since Womack walked around campus with a smile on his face, Liles said. To students, he was a "champion chuckler," an "online blog star" and a "master of the meeting."

Ken Schwab, a former Centenary president, remembered Womack as a person filled with positivity.

"(I hired him because) of his absolutely unflappable attitude about higher education, Centenary College and our students," said Schwab. "He was loved and had an infectious enthusiasm about life and college."

The Rev. Betsy Eaves, presided over the memorial. Womack never met a stranger and knew how to make a friend with nothing more than a smile and a handshake, she said.

"If you knew him, you called him friend because he likely called you friend," she said. "There were no nobodies for David. He would learn your name and once he learned it, he would use it. He made everyone feel special."

Eaves also called him a bridge builder, always wanting to collaborate when he could for the better good, even when opinions were heated.

"He was willing to be wrong and willing to say I'm sorry."

Centenary President B. David Rowe gave the Communion, saying that although the campus is grieving, they grieve together.

"We are one family. We are one community. We are one multicultural family. We are one multifaith family."

During a reception after the memorial, Rowe conferred the title of vice president and dean of student life to Womack posthumously.

"Because of his year of exceptional service, his legacy will be long-lasting."

Womack was the first black to serve at the senior level of leadership at the college. He had been at Centenary since September.

In addition to his widow, he is survived by his four children — Donovan, Tyler, Mason and Landon.