Dr. David A. West, a professor and former Finance Department chair who taught more than 11,000 students at MU's Trulaske College of Business during a span of 44 years, died Wednesday in Columbia of complications due to polio. He was 77.
Alumni and colleagues praised West for his courage, intellect, generosity, and, above all, his commitment to helping students succeed in the business world. A scholarship fund in his name has been established.
"He helped a lot of students get jobs – a lot," said Brandon Mann, the chairman and CEO of Ministries at Work and former principal at Cassidy Turley, a commercial real estate firm in St. Louis.
Mann, who was one of Dr. West's research assistants, said he had a broad network of former students who considered him a long-term mentor, and his recommendations "carried a lot of weight."
"His relationship with students far transcended their time on campus," Mann said. "I would talk to him several times a year for his advice, about life and business. For a lot of us, the relationship went on for, well…until now."
West was born on May 3, 1934, in Arkansas. After getting an undergraduate degree at John Brown University in Arkansas, West earned a master's in business administration and a doctoral degree at the University of Arkansas.
Dr. West came to the University of Missouri to teach in the College of Business in 1966. He served as chair of the Department of Finance and chair of both the MU Faculty Council and the MU Research Council. He was president of both the Midwest and Southern Finance associations, and was a consultant to various businesses, government agencies, hospitals, and disability groups. His honors include three national research awards, several teaching awards, the college's Professor of the Year Award, and an MU Faculty-Alumni Award.
He held a joint appointment in the School of Medicine's Department of Health Management and Informatics since 1980. He also published three books and some 50 articles in professional journals. His research interests included health care finance, real estate finance, and investments.
Dr. West retired in 2007, but continued working as an adjunct faculty member through 2010.
Dr. West used a wheelchair after contracting polio in 1950, and in 1953 persuaded his nurse to become his wife. Dan French, a finance professor and chairman of the Finance Department at the Trulaske College of Business, said Dr. West was "a real champion for people with disabilities."
"He had to overcome a lot of obstacles in his personal life, and he did," said Chad Smith, a former student who now is an executive with Morgan Stanley in the Chicago area. "He is a great example of what someone can do if they set their mind to it. The man was just unstoppable. He was always optimistic, always looking ahead."
French said Dr. West had "a very active and versatile mind," and was a great teacher. Near the end of a semester when final projects were coming due, students often would line the hallway outside his office, French said. "He was always available for students."
Smith credits Dr. West for helping him get a job with Goldman Sachs after graduation. "He put a lot of people on a launching pad," he said.
Smith said he and several classmates found themselves talking about Dr. West at a recent wedding reception. The consensus? Dr. West was "by far the most memorable professor we ever had."
"He was quite a character," French said "We're really going to miss him." Dr. West is survived by his wife Jane, their two children, and five grandchildren, along with two sisters and a brother.
Memorial contributions can be sent to the Dr. David A. West Scholarship Fund at the University of Missouri, 109 Reynolds Alumni Center, Columbia, MO 65211. Checks should be made payable to the University of Missouri and the memo line should say David West.
You may also contribute online.