Following his childhood in Indianapolis, Mr. West attended Carleton College, graduating cum laude in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and a minor in government. Following two years of military service as a corporal in the U.S. Army, he attended Harvard University, earning a Master of Business Administration degree in 1957. Upon graduation, Mr. West returned to Indianapolis to assume the positions of Vice President and Treasurer of West Baking, Inc.
In addition to working in his family business, Mr. West had a virtual second career as an elected official, serving on the Indianapolis City-County Council for 24 years, from 1972-1996. From 1972-1992, he held office representing District 6, and later served as an at-large councilor from 1992-1996. Mr. West also was elected vice president and majority leader of the council from 1988-1993. During his years in public office, he held numerous chairs on the council, including committees for Administration, Economic Development, Public Safety and Criminal Justice, and Public Works. Additionally, his council service included roles on the boards of directors for the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee and the National League of Cities.
Mr. West also served on a wide variety of non-profit organizations in his private life. From 1984 – 2010, he was president of The West Foundation, Inc. Additionally, he served as president of both Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association and the Indiana Conference of Congregational Christian Churches. Other civic experience included membership on the boards of trustees for Christian Theological Seminary, The Defiance College, Edyvean Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis Church Federation, Marion County Health and Hospital Corporation, Martin Luther King Multi-Service Center, and Peoples Bank. Mr. West was also a proud member of Rotary International for more than four decades.
He received a number of awards during his lifetime. In recognition of his service to the state of Indiana, Mr. West was awarded the title Sagamore of the Wabash (the State of Indiana’s highest honor) in 2002 and Distinguished Hoosier in 1996 by Governor Frank O’Bannon. Other organizations which have honored him for his contributions to the community included Marion County Alliance of Neighborhoods (MCANA Award), Mercy Foundation (Spirit of Africa Award), Meridan-Kessler Neighborhood Association (Sid Maurer Award), and Wishard Foundation (Indiana Public Health Award).
Mr. West passed away in 2010 at the age of 79. At his memorial service, his lifelong friend Jim Morris (former head of the World Food Programme) said of his service to the community, “Whatever Steve did, it was never about promoting himself, never about ego; it was always about doing the right thing for those he was serving.” We can think of no better means of stating his contributions to the spirit of our philanthropy at the West Foundation.