Gift Planning's Vision
With you, we are endowing the future of Westmont.
The late Mrs. Ruth K. Kerr, President of Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation and a staunch Christian, had a great concern for young people and a strong desire to found a Bible college.
Mrs. Kerr also felt deeply that costs should not keep anyone from attending such a school of higher learning. Demonstrating her commitment, she donated the Los Angeles campus and buildings as a memorial to her late husband, Alexander Hewitt Kerr. Ruth Kerr was a woman of vision.
The institution began in 1937 in Los Angeles under Mrs. Kerr's guidance, and by 1940 the board of trustees established a full liberal arts curriculum under the leadership of its first president, Dr. Wallace Emerson. Dr. Emerson came to Westmont with an intense desire to build a strong liberal arts college, and one of his first initiatives was to apply for college accreditation. Although he knew this could not be achieved immediately, he set the standard high and pointed the college toward excellence. Dr. Emerson was a man of vision.
The years from 1940 to 1944 represented a period of growth in enrollment in spite of the demands of wartime. In anticipation of the need for a larger campus, the board of trustees purchased the Altadena Country Club, applied for rezoning, and sold their existing campus in Los Angeles. From its founding, Westmont’s enrollment was open to students of all racial backgrounds. This became an issue as neighbors raised opposition to the college relocating in their area. The college would not compromise on this point, and it became apparent that necessary zoning would not be issued.From San Diego to San Francisco, a search was conducted for a new campus. In August of 1945 Mrs. Kerr arrived at the gates of the Dwight Murphy estate in Montecito and felt the Lord telling her, “This is the place.” The 125 acres provided adequate space, the $125,000 price tag seemed reasonable,and so the property was purchased. Classes resumed that fall on the Santa Barbara campus in the estate house which was renamed Kerrwood Hall.
Mrs. Kerr and Dr. Emerson are two examples of people who displayed vision and sacrifice, but they do not stand alone in the history of Westmont College. Stories of the vision and sacrifice of trustees, administrators, faculty, and staff would fill volumes. The story continues through alumni (now numbering 10,000), parents of alumni, and friends of the college in the Santa Barbara area and around the globe.