By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Larry Fuhrman served as headmaster at Westbrook Christian Academy from 1984 to 1988, but he said he’s been involved with the school since it’s start in 1971.
He began teaching a Bible class part time, while he was on the staff at 12th Street Baptist Church, and that’s what he’s doing again now, after retirement, teaching a Bible class each day.
“My wife jokes that since I retired they can’t fire me,” Fuhrman said, “they’ll have to call the police to get me out of here.”
But it seems unlikely anyone at Westbrook would want to see less of Fuhrman on campus. The school recently named its new basketball court after this most dedicated of volunteers.
The school’s field house and gym were paid for by the Bashinsky Family Foundation, and the field house bears its name. Fuhrman said the Bashinkys, owners of Golden Flake Snack Foods, have been longtime supporters of Westbrook, through a relationship with Big Oak Boys Ranch founder John Croyle.
As Fuhrman explains, the school was started in 1971 by a group in the Presbyterian church, but it always has operated as a non-denominational Christian school. In 1990, Big Oak Boys Ranch took over the school.
Fuhrman said he’s witnessed the school grow physically, with improved facilities, and in the size of the student body. He said the school has the largest enrollment now that it has ever had.
“Its been a really good situation for people who want what our school has to offer – a good solid education in a Christian environment,” Fuhrman said.
“Mr. Fuhrman is one of the godliest men that I know,” Westbrook’s current head administrator Cindy Greer said. “He has been influential in my life for many, many years.”
“Mr. Fuhrman actually hired me to be the Elementary Director in l987. That decision led me to eventually become the Administrator of the school.
“He loves students and they love him,” Greer said.” It was actually a student who recommended to me that we name the gym floor in his honor.
‘He is a man of character and integrity. Our students beg to be in his Bible class,” she said. “His humility and Christ-like spirit make him an example for all of our children.”
One of those who benefitted from Fuhrman’s example was Craig Ford, now minority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives, and a Gadsden businessman.
“Larry has made a positive impact on my life since my teenaged days,” Ford said. “There is not telling how many lives Larry had touched.
“Larry has made a difference in many lives. He’s a role model for what every father and husband should aspire to be,” Ford continued.
Athletics has always been important at the school, Fuhrman said, because to develop the total person, the school has to develop the physical side, too.
Westbrook participates in the Alabama High School Athletic Association as a 2A school for tournament play and the post-season. “We play other schools that are larger than we are through the season,” he said.
Furhman said basketball was not his strong suit when he was in school, but he’s always enjoyed all Westbrooks’ sports.
“All single out different skills and develop them, just as different academic subjects do,” Fuhrman said. “There are different skills needed to be a scientist than to be a mathematician.”
And that is Fuhrman’s true love – watching young people find their skills and helping them to hone them.
“That’s really what it’s all about,” Fuhrman said. “Helping them to understand that they are all God’s creations and helping them develop and use their skills.”
Fuhrman said it is his love of being around kids that keeps him volunteering at Westbrook. “It keeps me getting up and getting out,” he said. “I think that’s one of the keys to staying healthy – staying busy.”
From his years as headmaster, Fuhrman knows the importance to dedicated volunteers and dedicated teachers. Westbrook, he said, has been blessed with both.
“”If it weren’t for the people who give for facilities and for programs, we couldn’t do what’s done here.
“We have volunteers who give and teachers who give,” he said. “Our teachers are very dedicated and well-trained.” For the teacher’s he’s worked with, it is about more than doing a job.
“It’s about investing in these students’ lives,” Fuhrman said.