LIncoln2ndInauguralCommencement came on a cool and overcast day, though without the rain and mud that marked Abraham Lincoln's Second Inauguration. Ron White, our Commencement speaker, did note that the weather was dreary for Lincoln's address, though he emphasized the promise of the president's biblical cadences and redemptive themes. Despite the dark skies, several reporters in 1865 remarked that the occasion was far more bouyant than four years earlier, when agitators filled the dusty streets of the capital with hints of secession. Yet one of Lincoln's best friends observed that it was a "pale, melancholy figure" who rose to accept a second term at the head of a war-weary nation.

I appreciated how Dr. White concluded his remarks by asking us to recite Lincoln's closing words, hopeful that the national benediction of 1865 can still inspire our best labors: "With malice toward none, with charity for all . . . let us strive on to finish the work we are in. . . " As Gayle observed in his own closing comments, this has been both a wonderful and a trying year for Westmont, and many in the community have been striving on with dignity in the midst of great challenges and sorrow. In this report, I get to celebrate several of the high points of the year—including a few awards, some newly appointed faculty, and the recent grants of tenure. But I also want to acknowledge the steady efforts of many colleagues who remain committed to work that we are still finishing, and doing so with perserverance, often in times of trial. At the conclusion I have attached the remarks that I shared at the farewell reception in appreciation of Jane Higa as she finishes her work at Westmont and strives forward in faith.

Mark Sargent




At its spring meeting the Board of Trustees awarded tenure to four members of the faculty: Steve Contakes (Chemistry), Jesse Covington (Political Science), Tom Knecht (Political Science), and Caryn Reeder (Religious Studies). The trustees also granted promotion to Jesse Covington (to associate professor), Beth Horvath (to associate professor), Caryn Reeder (to associate professor), Charlie Farhadian (to full professor), and Chandra Mallampalli (to full professor). Be sure to congratulate them all.

Nathan Huff


This fall the faculty in the Art Department will be welcoming Nathan Huff as their new colleague. A painter with strong interest in 3-D design, Nathan earned an MFA in drawing and painting from California State University at Long Beach and a bachelor’s in art education from Azusa Pacific University. He has been an adjunct lecturer at APU, Biola, CSU Long Beach, and Los Angeles Southwest College for the past several years, and has taught in Rome, Wellington, and Prague. In his own words, he attempts to express "freewheeling narratives" and "reservoirs of memories." To introduce Nathan to our community, we asked him to respond to a few questions:

Can you tell us why you chose to dedicate yourself to art?

Ever since I was a kid I have enjoyed telling stories. The experiences I found in art opened up worlds of wonder and rich narratives for me over the years. [continue reading]

Felicia Song


Although she was officially hired last year, Felicia Song delayed her arrival and will be joining the Sociology and Anthropology Department this summer, assuming the role as chair. Currently finishing her service on the faculty of Louisiana State University, she has actually been quite active this year collaborating with our department on its planning and searches. We also asked her to share a few thoughts with us about her professional and personal journey.

What encouraged you to pursue a degree in sociology?

Growing up, Christianity was strictly a matter of personal piety. It really wasn’t until after college that I was introduced to the idea that everything in this world was subject to God’s redeeming power and deserving of Christian examination—everything. [continue reading...]

Han Soo Kim


It is wonderful to announce that our position in strings will be filled by Han Soo Kim, an accomplished solo artist, duo-recitalist, and chamber musician. While he regularly performs on violin, he enjoys playing on viola, and has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, the Emerson String Quartet, and the International Sejong Soloists. He has performed in more than a dozen countries, including Italy, Taiwan, Korea, Mexico, Cuba, England and France. Han Soo completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Julliard, and recently finished his Doctor of Musical Arts from Stony Brook University. His latest recording, Encore Favori (Promessa), is a collaboration with pianist Jie Roger Luo, and it features works by Paganini, Tschaikovsky, Chopin, Schumann and Elgar, among others. He and Luo are preparing to release more recordings, including the complete Brahms Sonatas. You can catch a glimpse of Han Soo playing Grigoras Dinicu's "Hora Staccato" (arranged by J. Heifetz) at a summer music festival in this video, which captures something of the playfulness, brisk acceleration, chronomatism, and surprising dissonance of the famous Romanian dance.

Russ Howell


Professor of Mathematics Russell Howell deserves congratulations on many fronts. As President Beebe announced at Commencement, Russ will assume the Kathleen Smith Endowed Chair next fall, stepping into the post held previously by Allan Nishimura; we will celebrate that occasion in October with an installation service. His colleagues on the Academic Senate have also re-elected him as the chair for the coming academic year. And he just received news that he has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for about $40,000. The funds will be used to convene at Westmont in June 2014 a team of 14 experts in the field of complex analysis (an area of mathematics that deals with "complex numbers," which can be modeled by points on a two-dimensional surface). The purpose is to revitalize the subject as taught at the undergraduate level.

Jennifer Taylor


In early April Westmont was given the Outstanding 4-Year College Award by the California Internship and Work Experience Association (CIWEA). Jennifer Taylor was in Sacramento to accept the award on behalf of the college; the award recognizes our internship and practica programs for "excellence in program quality and outcomes in student success." Specifically, Westmont was commended for the way that we track our interns via an online "Internship Learning Agreement Form." Jennifer will continue to serve on the CIWEA board, which has recently elected her as its secretary. Congratulations to Jennifer and all involved with the program.


higa jane

Over twenty-five years ago, when I was given tenure as an English professor, the dean of students took another colleague and me to lunch. It was a generous gesture, neither scheme nor duty. This one truly was a free lunch. The chief student life officer simply wanted to celebrate with us—to relax, to laugh, and perhaps to dream up a little trouble since two more of us now had job security. Most of all, we wanted to relish the prospects of a life-long friendship as colleagues on the same campus.

Before long, though, neither Jane Higa nor I were on that same campus. She left for the oak-covered slopes of Westmont, and soon afterwards I ventured into the oak groves of Michigan—and traded that job security for the quicksand of administration. But the life-long friendship survived. I suppose provosts, if they are lucky, do get a kind of tenure: it's not in the contract, but it is in the commitment of friends and associates to walk alongside you as you hike through the hazards of the job. Although we lived on opposite sides of the continent for nearly two decades, Jane Higa has long been one of my companions on that journey. [continue reading...]