Alumni Spotlight-  Wayne Gilbert West ‘81

Gil West

Gil grew up in the mountains further west of Brevard, and when he was choosing a college, he knew he wanted to be close to home, his friends, and of course to play basketball.

From his leadership experience on campus as the captain of the Brevard College men’s basketball team, to a successful career as Chief Operating Officer of Delta Air Lines, and now in his role as Chief Operating Officer of Cruise Automation, Gil is not only leading the automotive industry through innovation but also giving back to his alma mater through his service as a Trustee.

As many of our students, Gil was unsure of what he wanted to do in life when it came to his education and career. However, he had an uncle who was an engineer and because Gil figured he was at least decent in math and science, he thought “why not”.

During his time here at Brevard College, he built his foundation in education and in creating a community on campus which is still his approach in the workforce today.  “No matter how big they are, there is a circle of people and you develop a relationship.” At Brevard, students connect with faculty and staff and even years later, Gil remembers fond relationships with classmates and professor Preston Woodruff who just always did things are little differently. Gil has held leadership roles with multiple airline companies and recently retired as Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President with Delta Airlines throughout his career.

Growing up around his dad’s automobile store, he developed a love for transportation. Currently, Gil is the Chief Operating Officer with Cruise, an American self-driving car company, a subsidiary of General Motors. Along with the advanced technology, Cruise is the first company to offer rides without a driver in a major public city and received California’s first driverless Deployment Permit this summer and as of this fall is expanding to Phoenix, Arizona and Austin, Texas. “What we are doing in San Francisco, is not way in the future, it’s now. It’s truly a magical experience. Initially, you can’t believe it, then you quickly settle in and you have all of the space to yourself. I am living the dream for sure.”

As many of our alumni, Gil always recalled the importance of friendships and how special the community was during his time on campus. “Brevard College was a great experience; it prepares you for the rest of your life.” Gil currently serves on a few boards including our Brevard College Board of Trustees. “All of us give back in life in some form. Vision and leadership is key. Tapping into experience and wisdom creates the right environment to blossom, it’s great to be a part of that. Brevard has stood the test of time and I think the future is really bright, and it’s an honor to give back. I still remember when I graduated, looking back, there is a marathon ahead, it’s just the beginning, but if you continue to learn and absorb and grow as a person, that’s a great accomplishment.”