Westervelt family creates fund for Ocracoke students

Ernie Westervelt and Kari Styron. Photo courtesy of Summer Stevens.

By Summer Stevens

For over 60 years, the community in Ocracoke was a respite for the Westervelt family. Beginning in 1960, Dr. Frederic Westervelt would travel with his family from Virginia for a few days or weeks away from the rigors of his duties as part of the faculty at UVA medical school. The kindness of the people, the quiet pace of life, and the beauty of the ocean continued to draw the Westervelt family to the small island year after year. At Fred’s retirement in 2000, they moved full time down to Ocracoke.

Prior to Fred’s passing in April of 2023, the Westervelt family had discussed what kind of gift they could offer to the little village that has meant so much to them.

Though Fred, his wife Ernestine (Ernie), and children Kari and Ric considered various contributions to the community, the Westervelts wanted to choose a donation that would make a lasting impact.

Through the Outer Banks Community Foundation, the family established the Dr. Frederic B. Jr. and Ernestine H. Westervelt Scholarship Fund, a significant renewable scholarship that will support the education of eligible Ocracoke students to accredited institutions such as college, universities, trade schools, and community colleges.

Fred was always very interested in learning, Ernie said, and he was also attached to Ocracoke. The family combined these things into a scholarship that could make a difference for a wide range of students. Students must live in Ocracoke but can come from the public school, home school, or early college/dual enrollment program through COA. The GPA requirement is a lenient 2.7 average, with the hope that it will encourage many students to apply.

“We wanted to do something that would be worthwhile and would help the community,” Ernie said, “because we loved living there.”

When the family would retreat to Ocracoke, many people didn’t even know Fred was a physician. Described by his family as a kind and ethical man who chose his words carefully, Fred was deeply appreciative of the remote island that allowed him to rest from the chaos of his regular life.

Fred worked at the UVA for almost 30 years in the field of nephrology, developing one of the first in-house and outpatient dialysis programs. He was nationally active in establishing organizations for nephrology, dialysis, and organ sharing. After leaving the UVA, he opened his own dialysis clinic and ran that for another ten years.

“During the day, he was using his brain,” said daughter Kari Styron, “and when he came home, he was using his hands.”

Fred enjoyed restoring old cars and working on his 60-acre farm in Charlottesville, Virginia. He and Ernie had goats, chickens, cows, and horses. She took care of the children and the bulk of the farm responsibilities, allowing him to devote his time and attention to his work.

“I was his support,” she said with pride. “He could not have done what he did—worked the hours he did or did what he did if he did not have me at home. I took care of the things of living. Somebody has to do it.”

After retiring full time to Ocracoke in 2005, the couple bought Cove Bed & Breakfast, which Ernie managed for 18 years.

“He just loved being there,” his wife of almost 63 years said.

One of the reasons he loved it was because of the way the people cared for each other. The Westervelt family feels grateful for the kindness they have received through the years, and are so pleased to reciprocate this kindness through the Dr. Frederic B. Jr. and Ernestine H. Westervelt Scholarship Fund.