Harold B. West was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1892. He began showing his entrepreneurial talent at an early age, establishing his first business venture with a carrying route for the Saturday Evening Post, later acquiring a series of routes all over his hometown and hiring other boys to deliver the periodical. Following high school, Mr. West attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, working his way through college as a tutor, and completing the Wharton School of Business four-year program in three years.
During his time at Wharton, Mr. West decided to enter the bread baking business. After graduation, he accepted an internship at a bakery in Washington, DC, where he was approached to enlist during World War I to direct the establishment of what was at the time the world’s largest overseas bakery, producing 800,000 lbs. of bread daily to feed U.S. troops. Leaving the U.S. Army as a captain in 1919, he selected Indianapolis as the site for establishing his own bakery, purchasing the Daugherty Cake Company and using it as the basis for organizing West Baking Company that same year.
By the end of the 1920s, Mr. West had built his enterprise into one of the largest independent bakeries in the county, promoting that angle by splashing the words “Emphatically Independent” across the company’s delivery vehicles. West Baking Company continued to thrive throughout the 1930s, bread being a staple item of most people’s diets, even in times of economic crisis. During World War II, Mr. West was well enough recognized throughout the baking industry to be tapped as a bakery consultant for the U.S. Secretary of War, participating in numerous conferences in Washington, DC and inspecting bakeries at military installations. Additionally, he served as co-chair of the Marion County Defense Bond Committee during the war.
Throughout his career, Mr. West was also involved in a large number of civic activities. He helped to establish the Indianapolis Community Fund (later United Way of Indianapolis), serving twice as its campaign chair and also as its president. He was also a key member of the original Marion County Juvenile Justice Committee and served as president of the Social Hygiene Association. Additionally, he was a director of the Fletcher Trust Company, and served for four years as a director of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce as well as seven years on the finance committee of that organization. He rounded out his community service as a member of the Indianapolis Hospital Development Association and with service on the boards of the American Bankers’ Association and the Chicago Theological Seminary.
Mr. West was very active in his spiritual life as a member of the First Congregational Church of Indianapolis. A trustee of the church, he also served for many years on its foreign missions committee. Later, he was one of the founding members of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions of the Congregational Church. These important associations led him to note the need for assistance in developing countries, and to establish a fund for the creation of the West Foundation to help provide such aid in his will. After his passing in 1954, the West Foundation was incepted in 1958 as a testament to his dedication to improving the lives of people around the world.
Mr. West was gifted with great foresight and vision, as well as the boundless energy and enthusiasm for all of his interests that caused his friends to label him “the human dynamo.” It is this combination of qualities to which our foundation owes not only its existence but its legacy of assisting beyond the borders of what we see immediately in front of us. Our work is to make every attempt to bring his dream of an equal existence for all to reality.