Remembering Johanna Lee Exner ’08

By Alana Duerr ’08

Strong, smart, witty, self-deprecating, kind, thoughtful, caring, hardworking, thrifty, creative—these are the first adjectives that come to mind when I think of Jo. Like all of us in our class, I have many fond memories of Jo, and words do not describe our collective heartbreak when we found out that her life had unexpectedly ended this summer after a very brief battle with cancer.

Given Webb’s small class sizes, each person leaves an indelible mark on his or her class, and the Class of 2008 is no exception. Jo was the girls’ girl who could keep up with the guys and put them in their place when needed. She was quick with a quippy (and often self-deprecating) joke and a laugh. She was also smart and driven, and she and her thesis partner won the Lewis Nixon Memorial Prize at graduation.

Jo not only had an impact on our class but on all of Webb while we were on campus. Jo loved music, played piano, and graced the Webb Family Singers with her voice over her four years at Webb, and she also served as the social chair for at least two years. She came up with party themes and always selflessly lent a hand to help people find clothes, make clothes, go thrift store shopping, and do the girls’ (and sometimes the boys’) hair and makeup.

After Webb, Jo moved to Ft. Lauderdale. She was the first person in our class to endeavor to earn a professional engineers’ license, and, of course, she passed. In the midst of her professional success at Murray and Associates, she met her husband Mark. They had their first daughter, Kelsey, in 2016, and their second daughter, Colleen, in 2018. She was a loving and devoted wife and mother. In early 2019, they relocated from the Fort Lauderdale area to Houston.

Jo’s Memorial Service was held on August 3, 2019, outside Houston, attended by friends, family, and over twenty Webb alumni. There were lots of hugs and tears, but also a lot of laughter as we remembered all of the wonderful times with her.

Jo is the first Webb Alumna to leave this earth, and we can all agree that it was far too soon. If you have any pictures or memories of Jo that you’d like to share with Mark, their girls, or her family, please send them to me at A college savings account has been set up for Jo’s girls, and if anyone is interested in supporting them, please click below.

Johanna at Professor Stephan's Retirement in 2007
Johanna at Professor Bruce Stephan’s Retirement Party in 2007
Johanna at Webb Idol 2006
Johanna singing at Webb Idol in 2006
Johanna at Webstock 2007
Johanna singing at Webstock in 2007

Making Webb a Place Called Home

Freshman, George Hambleton, recounts his Orientation Experience

George Hambleton ’23

By George Hambleton ’23

I was not sure what to expect when I came to Webb. I knew the degree path was something I wanted to pursue but I had reservations about moving away from my friends. I was going in blind since I had not communicated with any of my new classmates and it was my first time moving out of my home state of Florida. However, after I arrived at Webb, I was happily surprised by the number of activities planned for the class to get to know each other. We had a clue hunt around Webb, a drawing class, beach trip, and a scavenger hunt in New York City. These activities really helped me connect with my classmates and feel comfortable at Webb.

I particularly found the clue hunt around Webb helpful. We were given tours during our prospective freshman visits and at the beginning of orientation, but it was the clue hunt that helped me understand the layout of campus best. For the hunt, we were given short riddles or picture clues and then we had to find the location the clue was directing us towards. It took my group all over campus, so I was able to navigate myself around campus and really figure out where everything is located. The hunt was run by upperclassmen, so it also helped me meet some of the other students. My experiences with the clue hunt and other activities have made Webb feel like home.

The Class of 2023 during Orientation Week.

Webb completes its 2nd year of Meeting Full Demonstrated Need of All Students with Support from the Gardiner Foundation

The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation was founded in 1987 with the purpose of providing support to the State of New York by promoting New York’s history, culture, and heritage. In 2018, the Gardiner Foundation chose to support Webb Institute by awarding Webb a $250,000 grant to be used over three years in order to assist Webb in meeting the full demonstrated financial need of all students. 

William H. Webb, known as the foremost shipbuilder in New York City during the 19th Century, established and endowed Webb’s Academy in 1889. His vision included providing full financial support for the cost of attendance. Today this support comes in the form of Webb’s full-tuition scholarship. Recently, however, even with the generosity of this full-tuition scholarship, other expenses including room and board fees, activity fees, and transportation costs have made affording the Webb experience difficult for some students with high financial need.  

The term “demonstrated financial need” has been defined as the difference between total college cost of attendance and the family’s ability to pay, which is determined by the information families provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Webb’s admissions process has always been need-blind. Now, with the support of the Gardiner Foundation, Webb has joined a small group of institutions who currently meet the full demonstrated financial need of all students, making Webb accessible to students regardless of their ability to pay.  The success of this initiative can be seen in looking at the statistics. Since implementing this program just last year, Webb has seen a 50% increase in the total amount of demonstrated financial need. In fact, the current freshman class represents 62% of total need this academic year, all of which was met by scholarships and limited loans. In addition, this program has also provided Webb with the time to develop an endowment to sustain this initiative and ensure limited debt upon graduation. The continued support of this initiative has also been named as a priority in Webb’s strategic plan.

Webb Institute is thankful for the Gardiner Foundation’s support. The Foundation has assisted Webb Institute in recruiting and educating students who are interested in pursuing a career in naval architecture and marine engineering and preserving the history of this unique educational institution.

The Honorable Peter Fox Cohalan speaking with students during the Couch Academic Center Groundbreaking in 2018.
The Honorable Peter Fox Cohalan speaking with students during the Couch Academic Center Groundbreaking in 2018.
Left to Right: Joseph Cuneo ’57 and Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation with Alison and Hal Granger P’14 (Hon.) at the Couch Academic Center Groundbreaking in 2018.

Webb Announces New Assistant Director of Student Affairs and Residence Life

Webb would like to introduce Marissa Alperin as the new Assistant Director of Student Affairs and Residence Life.

Before joining the team at Webb, Marissa worked in higher education at the State University of New York at New Paltz in Undergraduate Admissions as a Student Manager and Ambassador, and for Student Affairs as a Work Studies Manager and Student Activities Manager. Most recently, Marissa worked as a Residential Director at Skidmore College. While working in these positions, Marissa helped provide prospective and current students with an enriching, safe, and educational environment, so that students could excel in academic and social communities on campus. Having experience in running school Open houses, overseeing student employees, organizing/running events, and being a point person for emergencies, Marissa is eager to begin her journey here at Webb. 

Marissa has a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the State University of New York. Upon graduation, Marissa’s research was electronically published by the school, and she received a Distinguished Senior in Student Affairs award. 

As the new Assistant Director of Student Affairs and Residence Life, Marissa will be in charge of student wellness, student health, student activities, residential life, emergencies, parking, and van access, among other tasks.

When Marissa is not on campus, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, singing, traveling/exploring new places, watching some of her favorite shows: Game of Thrones, The Office, and Gilmore Girls, and going to museums. 

Webb Institute Featured in The Princeton Review’s “Best 385 Colleges” Guide for 2020

Webb Institute is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduates to earn their college degree, according to The Princeton Review. The education services company profiles and recommends Webb in the 2020 edition of its annual college guide, The Best 385 Colleges (Penguin Random House, August 6, 2019, $24.99).

Only about 13% of America’s 3,000 four-year colleges are profiled in the book, which is one of The Princeton Review’s most popular publications. The company chooses the colleges for the book based on data it annually collects from administrators at hundreds of colleges about their institutions’ academic offerings. The Princeton Review also considers data it gathers from its surveys of college students who rate and report on various aspects of their campus and community experiences for this project.   

“We salute Webb for its outstanding academics and we are truly pleased to recommend it to prospective applicants searching for their personal ‘best-fit’ college,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s Editor-in-Chief and lead author of The Best 385 Colleges.  

In the profile on Webb, The Princeton Review praises the school for its admissions committee that “is dedicated to finding students who will excel in the school’s rigorous program” and quotes from Webb students the company surveyed for the book. One student commented that winter work term “gives each student a feel for industry sectors and allow them to make improved career decisions when selecting a first job.” Another student speaks about the family atmosphere at Webb, saying students “become best friends very quickly, giving everyone great support systems both academically and socially.”

The Princeton Review does not rank the colleges in the book from 1 to 385. Instead, it reports 62 ranking lists of top 20 schools in the book in various categories important to prospective applicants and their parents. Categories of ranking lists range from “Best Career Services” and “Great Financial Aid” to “Professors Get High Marks” and “Best Campus Food.” The rankings in this edition are based on the company’s surveys of 140,000 students at the 385 schools in the book.  

Webb is on the following ranking lists in “The Best 385 Colleges”:

#5 Most Accessible Professors

#9 Students Study the Most

The Princeton Review’s school profiles and 62 ranking lists inThe Best 385 Colleges are posted at where they can be searched for free with site registration.

The Best 385 Colleges is the 28th annual edition of The Princeton Review’s “Best Colleges” book and one of 150 Princeton Review books in a line published by Penguin Random House.

It has been featured on NBC “TODAY” more than a dozen times, and referenced by reporters in publications from Inside Higher Education to The Wall Street Journal.

The Princeton Review ( is an education services company known for its tutoring, test-prep courses, books, and other student resources. Headquartered in New York, NY, it is not affiliated with Princeton University.

About The Princeton Review:

The Princeton Review is a leading tutoring, test prep, and college admission services company. Every year, it helps millions of college- and graduate school-bound students achieve their education and career goals through online and in person courses delivered by a network of more than 4,000 teachers and tutors, online resources, and its more than 150 print and digital books published by Penguin Random House. Its brand is the largest online tutoring service in the U.S. It comprises a community of thousands of tutors who have delivered more than 15 million one-to-one tutoring sessions. The Princeton Review is headquartered in New York, NY. The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University. For more information, visit The Princeton Review. Follow the company on Twitter @ThePrincetonRev and Instagram @theprincetnreview.