1.2 Brief History of the College

The history of Westmont began in Los Angeles in 1937 with the establishment of the Bible Missionary Institute (later renamed the Western Bible College). In 1940 Ruth Kerr and the other founders realized that a liberal arts curriculum was the best direction for the school. The college was renamed Westmont, and Dr. Wallace Emerson, the first president, envisioned a Christian college that would rival the best colleges in the nation. In doing this, he set an important direction for the new college.

By 1944, Westmont had outgrown its facilities in Los Angeles. The search for a new campus led Mrs. Kerr and the trustees to the former Dwight Murphy estate in Montecito with its 125 acres and beautiful Mediterranean house. Westmont purchased this property and moved to the Santa Barbara area in 1945.

Set in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Westmont’s wooded and scenic acres provide a beautiful environment for a residential college. The campus includes buildings and land from two former estates and the historic Deane School for Boys. The grounds still feature the pathways, stone bridges, and garden atmosphere typical of Montecito, a lovely suburb of Santa Barbara.

While Westmont has sought to preserve and use the original structures, it has also built many new facilities. These include the Roger John Voskuyl Library, the Whittier Science Building, the Murchison Gymnasium complex, the Ruth Kerr Memorial Student Center, Ellen Porter Hall and five residence halls (Armington, Clark, Emerson, Page, and Van Kampen).

In the 1980s, Westmont received increasing recognition as an outstanding Christian liberal arts college. U.S. News and World Report listed it as one of the top ten regional liberal arts colleges in 1985.

Today, U.S. News and World Report ranks Westmont among the nation’s top 100 liberal arts colleges. Additionally, the Templeton foundation consistently recognizes Westmont as among the nation’s top 100 colleges committed to character development.