Ruth Kerr and others founded the Bible Missionary Institute in 1937 and in 1939 it became the Western Bible College. By the fall of 1940, it had become a liberal arts college committed to the historic Christian faith and the name was changed to Westmont College because it was in the west among the mountains. Dr. 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 estates.
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 an average of 1,200 students on campus
During the 1980s and 90s, Westmont earned increasing national recognition for its academic program, leadership training, and unique emphasis on intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth. Under the 25-year tenure of former President David K. Winter, the college attracted a highly qualified faculty, created a vital Christian community, and built a strong financial foundation for the 21st century.
Photograph: 1941 Homecoming float, (l) Warren Simon '43 and (r) Evelyn Catherwood '44