Spring semester has started as briskly as ever this month. Over the next three weeks there will be as many faculty candidates at Westmont as there will be presidential hopefuls in Iowa. The campus will also welcome the first 50 candidates for the Augustinian Scholarship, and we will host a play and an opera—and probably some drama in a few key GSAC basketball games.

The opera is set in ancient Carthage, now part of modern Tunisia. In a different corner of the Mediterranean region, the 23 students in the Westmont in Istanbul program have now started their semester in the Turkish port city of Izmir—site of one of the seven churches described in the Book of Revelation. In about six weeks we will host the visiting team from the WASC Senior College and University Commission, all part of our reaccreditation process. This month’s report is a good occasion, then, to offer a few words of appreciation for our “accreditation liaison officer” Bill Wright, who is retiring from Westmont in the summer.

Let me also recognize Bill Nelson, professor and lieutenant colonel, on his retirement as a chaplain in the Air National Guard after more than 22 years of service. Bill has served with the 146th Airlift Wing in Port Hueneme. We salute him for those many years of commitment.

Mark Sargent





I am pleased to share the first set of a regular series of occasional essays by faculty and staff. The new column, entitled Vistas, will feature two or three short essays each month. Click here for the inaugural edition, which includes pieces by Amanda Sparkman (on metaphors in natural selection) and Niva Tro (on the virtues of the liberal arts), as well as the first two selections in a series on politics in this election year by Tom Knecht. If you are interested in writing for the series, let me know.


Reel Talk


As the plight of refugees continues to grab worldwide attention, this semester's "Reel Talk" (our film-and-discussion series) will begin with a refugee story: this one takes us back to an escape from North Korea in 1950. A major hit in Korea, J.K. Youn's 2014 film "Ode to My Father" (photo) follows the story of a family split apart during their flight from the port city of Hungnam on the eve of a Chinese invasion and communist takeover, and it follows characters during their dislocation in Europe. With echoes of "Forrest Gump," the movie takes us through many landmark events in Asian history, including the fall of Saigon. The film will be shown in Porter on February 18 at 7:00 p.m. Helen Rhee and Charlie Farhadian will provide some post-film reflections.

The second film of the semester, "Citizen Four," is a documentary on the life and controversies of Edward Snowden, who is still in exile from the United States. The director, Laura Poitras, was contacted from Hong Kong by someone claiming to be Snowdon, and this film is what came as a result. The documentary will air on March 3 at 7:00 p.m. in Adams 216.



I grew up as a Dodgers fan, and then developed a second love when I got drawn into Red Sox Nation during our years in Massachusetts. An L.A.-Boston World Series is still on my bucket list. Until then, I can at least get excited that a Red Sox hero now manages the Dodgers. In 2004, Dave Roberts stole second base in the bottom of the ninth, and that feat sparked the comeback that overcame the Yankees and propelled the Red Sox toward their first World Series title since the Age of Prohibition. Roberts will never again have to buy a drink in New England.

So I was quick to offer lunch and a coke in the DC when a member of the Dodgers called to ask if someone could meet with me about a “personnel matter.” I was hoping that they would send Vin Scully, but instead it was a veteran named Thomas who showed up at my office. As soon as we found an open table in El Tejado, Thomas leapt right into his mission. “We need to add one more staffer on our managerial team,” he declared. “We thought we were set and then we all watched that movie ‘Moneyball.’ Do you remember Brad Pitt in that film? That’s why I came to talk with you about Bill Wright.”

I knew, of course, that Bill was retiring from Westmont this summer after nearly forty years at the institution, and yet had a hunch that he might be open to one more challenge. I had also seen “Moneyball,” which shows how a good eye for relevant statistics can topple the conventional wisdom about how to play the game. “Bill’s got that rare blend of institutional loyalty and cautious scrutiny,” I observed, “the capacity to ask the important questions that others sidestep and to look squarely at the data. But he always does so out of a deep love for the college.” “Probably comes from his days as a Westmont student,” Thomas suggested. “I’ve been told he went on to finish a doctorate at Syracuse, taught for a few years at John Brown, and then joined the Psychology Department back here. Before long he stepped into the registrar’s job and eventually assumed the role of associate provost, right?”

“Yes, that’s his career trajectory,” I noted, “though I’m not sure I would call the associate provost’s job a ‘role.’ It’s actually many, many roles—and it has always been evolving. Over the years Bill has supervised the registrar, the . . . [continue reading]



Aeneas, as the story goes, was one of the few of the vanquished to survive the Trojan War. An exile after the war, he would roam with his companions all over the Mediterranean world until they settled on the Italian peninsula and became the progenitors of Rome. Before then, his wanderings took him to Carthage on the shores of northern Africa. There, he won the heart of Queen Dido. In the end, though, her love was unrequited—with tragic reverberations.

Christopher Marlowe, as the rumors went, was a brawler, duelist, and spy. Before he was stabbed to death at the age of 29, he was also often described as the most promising playwright in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The author of Doctor Faustus and Tamburlaine the Great, Marlowe helped introduce blank iambic verse to the English stage. Today, that poetic form is commonly associated with one of Marlowe’s rivals—William Shakespeare, his junior by two months or so, a playwright whose career flourished after Marlowe’s was cut tragically short.

Henry Purcell, as musicians often do, showed remarkable genius in youth, composing some of England’s finest sacred music before the age of 25 and serving as the organist for Westminster Abbey. One of the most acclaimed Baroque composers in the seventeenth century, he wrote music for many plays and is often credited with writing the first English chamber opera.

All three of these strands come together during the end of January at Westmont when John Blondell directs a pair of productions about the Dido and Aeneas saga. [continue reading]




The Board of Trustees has voted to approve seven sabbatical proposals for the upcoming academic year. Here are the recipients and their projects:

Paul Delaney (spring 2017) will work on a second volume of Tom Stoppard in Conversation.

Michelle Hughes (spring 2017) will be doing research and writing on dispositions in teachers and pre-service teachers.

Wayne Iba (full-year, 2016-2017) will be exploring "the power of one" and evolutionary algorithms, as well as developing a proposal for a Mayterm program on environmental sustainability.

Susan Penksa (full-year, 2016-2017) will conduct field research and write on global and transatlantic security, international conflict, post-conflict stabilization, American foreign policy, and gender.

Marianne Robins (spring 2017) will do research and write on the motivations of the people who rescued the Jews during the Holocaust.

Jeff Schloss (full-year, 2016-2017) will work on several projects dealing with evolution, Christianity, morality, and the neurophysiological impact of group rituals and religious beliefs.

Niva Tro (full-year, 2016-2017) will be revising two textbooks and developing a new manuscript called 30-Second Chemistry for a series published by IVY Press.




The Gaede Institute's annual "Conversation" will examine the theme of "social transformation through the liberal arts," and features thinkers from Westmont, Middlebury and Babson. Nearly a quarter of American collegians now major in economics or business (about 14% at Westmont), and there are growing efforts within higher education to nurture the connections between business, management, and the liberal arts. Social reformers often need a fuller comprehension of economic and managerial principles to prompt meaningful change; business leaders often need wider and more nuanced lenses on cultural and ethical issues.

Mary Godwyn, professor at Babson in Massachusetts, remarks: "Entrepreneurship has the largest reach in management studies . . . because it incorporates every aspect of business: finance, accounting, marketing, etc. One of the things that we have done in the academy that is entrepreneurial is that we have come up with new lenses through which to see the world, and those lenses often include populations that were once excluded."

Jon Isham, director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Middlebury in Vermont, claims that "at their best the liberal experiences are about finding out, and thinking about, life's meaning. It turns out the best entrepreneurs are grounded in that kind of understanding . . . thinking about who you are, what you care about, what your ideals are, and then beginning to take that sense of self to a network of folks, some like you and some with different complementary skills, and beginning to think about how to implement change."

The two speakers will be joined by Westmont professor Cheri Larsen Hoeckley and Rachel Goble, from the SOLD project, in a series of sessions from February 4-6.

Tom Walters


Tom Walters is creating and overseeing a Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Team for the Potter’s Clay program in Mexico. The team's primary goal will be to teach on pain biology, common orthopedic pathologies, and simple self-treatment strategies that can be implemented to help reduce symptoms, improve function, and enhance one's overall quality of life.

Tom will serve as the point person, performing evaluations and educating patients on the details specific to their unique complaints. His students will help demonstrate exercise-based interventions and other self-treatment strategies specific to the patient's condition. Aside from treating common orthopedic conditions, he is doing research on the musculoskeletal needs in this population. If this venture is successful, the team hopes to bring in other professionals, such as occupational therapists, prosthetists, and physical therapists specializing in neurological and pediatric conditions.