History of Westmont College

In 1937, Ruth Kerr (among others) founded a school that in 1940 became a liberal arts college committed to the historic Christian faith. Wallace Emerson, the first president, envisioned an institution that rivaled the best colleges nationwide, and he set the standard for academic rigor and excellence that still applies.

By 1945, Westmont outgrew its facilities in Los Angeles and moved to the former Dwight Murphy estate in Santa Barbara with its 125 acres and beautiful Mediterranean house. Acquiring another property and the former Deane School for Boys completed the campus that features the pathways, stone bridges, and gardens of the former estate.

Achieving accreditation in 1958, Westmont began building its campus in the 1960s, adding nine major buildings. Enrollment rose to 840, and in 1976, the college received approval for 1,200 students. In 2007, the county authorized an updated campus master plan, and Westmont began the first phase of construction in 2008.

In recent decades, Westmont has earned increasing national recognition for its academic quality, leadership training and unique emphasis on intellectual, spiritual and personal growth. During his 25-year tenure, President David K. Winter helped the college attract a highly qualified faculty, create a vital Christian community, and make plans for constructing additional campus facilities. President Stan D. Gaede continued this work between 2001-2006. David Winter returned as chancellor and interim president for a year until Gayle D. Beebe became the eighth president in July 2007. His priorities include implementing the master plan and building a strong financial base for the 21st century. He presided over groundbreaking ceremonies for Adams Center for the Visual Arts and Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics in October 2008, which began a period of construction that will include up to five buildings and new athletic fields.


Presidents

  • Rev. Leland B. Entrekin 1937-38
  • Dr. Elbert L. McCreery, Vice President & Dean (no President) 1938-40
  • Dr. Wallace L. Emerson 1940-46
  • Dr. Elbert L. McCreery, Interim 1946-47
  • Interim Committee 1947-48
  • Dr. James Forrester 1948-50
  • Dr. Kenneth M. Monroe, Interim (six months) 1950
  • Dr. Roger J. Voskuyl 1950-68
  • Dr. Frank L. Hieronymus, Interim 1968-69
  • Dr. John W. Snyder 1969-71
  • Dr. Kenneth M. Monroe, Interim 1971-72
  • Dr. Lyle C. Hillegas 1972-75
  • Dr. Ernest Ettlich, Interim 1975-76
  • Dr. David K. Winter 1976-2001
  • Dr. Stan D. Gaede 2001-2006
  • Dr. David K. Winter, Interim 2006-2007
  • Dr. Gayle D. Beebe 2007-current

A Few Key Dates

1937

Bible Missionary Institute founded and it met in First Fundamental Church in Los Angeles on Alvardo Street.

Spring 1939

Bible Missionary Institute was renamed Western Bible College.

Fall 1939

Western Bible College moved to Westmoreland Street, Los Angeles.

Spring 1940

Western Bible College was renamed Westmont College.

Summer 1945

Westmont purchased and relocated to a portion of the current property of the campus, El Tejada (the Murphy Estate) in Montecito from Charles and Eva Holland.

1958

Westmont College earned its accreditation.

Spring 1964

Coyote Fire. Student housing, Catherwood Hall, burned down in the fire.


College Timeline - Significant Events

1937

Bible Missionary Institute founded and it met in First Fundamental Church in Los Angeles on Alvardo Street.

Spring 1939

Bible Missionary Institute was renamed Western Bible College.

Fall 1939

Western Bible College moved to Westmoreland Street, Los Angeles.

Spring 1940

Western Bible College was renamed Westmont College.

Summer 1944

Purchased the Altadena property.

Summer 1945

Westmont purchased and relocated to a portion of the current property of the campus, El Tejada (the Murphy Estate) in Montecito from Charles and Eva Holland.

1946

Quonset huts arrived.

1955

Post Office (Operation Elbow Room) was built.

1957

Carroll Observatory and Ruth Gapen Hubbard Hall were built.

1958

Westmont College earned its accreditation.

1959

Dining Commons (original) and John C. Page Residence hall were built.

1961

Ellen Porter Hall of Fine Arts and the Nancy Voskuyl Prayer Chapel were built.

1963

Van Kampen Residence hall was built.

1964

Coyote Fire. Student housing, Catherwood Hall, burned down in the fire.

1966

Clark Residence hall was built.

1967

Roger John Voskuyl Library was built.

1969

Hugh R. Murchinson Physical Education Complex was built.

1970

The President’s house was built on the site of former student housing, Catherwood Hall. Armington Residence Halls (phase 1) was built. Kerrwood Fire in the President’s office.

1974

Armington Residence Halls (phase 2) was built.

1983

Ruth Kerr Student Center was built.

1984

Emerson Residence Hall III was built.

1984

Whittier Science Building was built.

2009

Westmont Observatory was built.

2010

Thorrington Field and the Westmont Track was built.

2010

Adams Center for the Visual Arts and the Westmont Art Museum was built.

2010

Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics was built.