Virginia Krebs, a civic activist who played key roles at Johnson County Community College, died at the age of 94 on Feb. 8.
Krebs had been a longtime member of the community college’s elected board of trustees and before that was the college’s first director of community services. She helped the college get on its feet before it was opened in September 1969 by serving as an assistant to the board, becoming the college’s first employee.
“Virginia Krebs made remarkable contributions to education in Johnson County, involving both the K-12 districts and the community college,” said JCCC President Joe Sopcich.
“She was both a visionary and a pioneer,” he said. “The community is deeply in her debt. We’re grateful to have known her and to have benefited from her efforts.”
A celebration of her life will be held in a memorial service at noon March 8 at the Johnson County Community College Polsky Theater.
Krebs, born Aug. 2, 1919, grew up in Denver and earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce at the University of Denver. She moved to Kansas City with her late husband, Al Krebs, in 1946. Eventually, they settled in Merriam.
Krebs taught elementary and secondary school for several years and then became active in parent-teacher associations. She was president of several local PTAs and a member of the state board.
In 1963, Krebs became a member of the task force that was charged with studying the feasibility of opening a community college in Johnson County. She was encouraged to run as a member of the college’s first board but decided against it because she had young children.
Krebs instead volunteered to take the board’s minutes until they hired a staff. When they took her up on the offer, she became the college’s first employee.
“For nine months, I was the only employee,” Krebs recalled during a 1995 interview. “I brought coffee and found places for them to meet. I did everything.”
Krebs and her husband also helped find the buildings in Merriam that the college leased for classrooms before moving to its present campus in Overland Park.
Krebs became the college’s first director of community services in 1969. She held that position until she retired in 1984.
As director, Krebs was responsible for developing cultural programs and special programs for youth, families and senior citizens.
In 1985, Krebs ran for a seat on the college board and won easily. She was elected to the board six consecutive times and had served as board treasurer, vice chairwoman and chairwoman. When she resigned from the board in 2008, she was named the board’s first trustee emeritus.
Besides her involvement with the college, Krebs volunteered and served on the boards of many community organizations. She said she particularly enjoyed working in areas that helped women, older persons and children.
“I just had an opportunity to respond to needs in a lot of different ways,” Krebs said. “It’s been wonderful.”
The women’s programs that Krebs created at the college were among the first offered in the Kansas City area. For that, she received a Woman of the Year award in 1980 from the American Association of Women in Community Colleges.
In 1993, Krebs received the American Association of Community College’s regional trustee award. And in 2002, in honor of her work on behalf of the college, the first-floor visitors center at the Carlsen Center was named the Virginia Krebs Community Room.
Krebs was preceded in death by her husband, Albert, two siblings and her eldest son, Fred Krebs, who had been a history professor at the community college for more than 40 years. He died in December 2012. She is survived by three sons, four grandchildren, a great granddaughter and a host of nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions can be made to the JCCC Foundation, 12345 College Blvd., Carlsen Center 207, Overland Park, KS 66210-1699.