William F. “Bill” West was born in 1875 on the family homestead in Chehalis. He was the youngest of seven children born to an English immigrant and one of the area’s original pioneers, William West. The elder Mr. West’s many accomplishments included involvement in city and county government and organizing the first Chehalis School District.
The First of Many Gifts
In 1949 W.F. West gave the Chehalis School District the land that is the current site of W.F. West High School. This gift coinicided with the 1949 earthquake that did severe damage to the Chehalis High School building that was located at the corner of Market and Main, the present location of Les Schwab.
A New School is Built
The building that currently houses W.F. West High School was completed in 1951, and was called Chehalis High School at the time. In 1953 the Chehalis District athletic field was officially named the William F. West Athletic Field. On September 19, 1957 Chehalis High School was officially renamed W.F. West High School.
The school district was the beneficiary of many more gifts from Mr. West and his wife Blanche. Among these gifts were capital improvements to the school site. From 1950 to 1963, the West family gave more than $40,000 to Chehalis schools.
A Final, Enduring Legacy
Mr. West died in 1963 at the age of 87. Mrs. West died in 1969 at the age of 88. Following her death, the students of Chehalis received a final gift from the Wests. The William F. and Blanche E. West scholarship trust was established in 1969. The graduating class of 1970 was the first group to receive a West scholarship.
The W.F. West scholarship continues to make possible the scholastic dreams of Chehalis students today. Twenty deserving members of the class of 2009 received West scholarships.
An extensive remodeling and modernization project was completed in 1992. The project took two years. The remodel was completed in phases, and students still attended classes in the building and in portable classrooms.
This portrait of William F. West is displayed in the high school that bears his name
This picture, from the November 8, 1957 edition of the Crimson and Gray student newspaper, shows Mr. & Mrs. West at the left, and Chester Rhodes, superintendent, at the renaming ceremony for the high school
The Indian symbol for “river” and the arrowhead signify the Indian heritage from which Chehalis is derived.
The book and torch symbolize the academic and extra-curricular programs of the school. The torch also depicts the Statue of Liberty which adorns the campus.
The trees portray the surroundings of the Chehalis area and stand for the lumbering, farming, and recreational facilities of the valley.
The interlocking triangles personify the relationship between the student body, faculty, and community. The triangles also typify the three mountains visible in the distance.
One of the great mysteries that students at W.F. West must come to grips with is the question about the school mascot. In a literal sense, a bearcat is a actually a binturong, a wolverine-like animal from southeast asia. This wikipedia link will let you know other schools that have the bearcat as a mascot.
Another explanation of how our mascot came to be relates to the early pioneers, who called cougars bearcats. This would tie in with our school colors of crimson and gray, the colors for Washington State University.
The W.F. West Bearcat
Our current bearcat symbol is a sort of hybrid between a cougar and bobcat head. You can choose whichever story works best for you. Or, if you have specific information about our mascot’s history, let us know.