Westmont Magazine Building Up the Faculty
Ten years ago, Westmont was committed to two major initiatives: raising $16 million for a capital campaign and seeking permission from Santa Barbara County to average enrollment at 1,200. As a trustee who chaired the building and grounds committee, David Eldred ’63 knew how crucial both these efforts were.
But he also recognized another need: providing affordable homes for faculty. “The cost of real estate was so high that basically only professors with inherited wealth could afford to come here,” he notes. “We lost too many candidates because of housing. At the same time, we tied up our endowment helping faculty buy homes, usually far from campus. We needed to end this costly equity sharing and get faculty closer to students.”
The idea of building homes on college land next to campus wasn’t new, but the difficulty of obtaining water and the necessary permits seemed daunting. Then in 1989, the City of Santa Barbara held a lottery for affordable housing projects and offered water to the winners.
“Suddenly, we had an opportunity to get water for faculty homes, and I was convinced we needed to act immediately,” David explains. “I really threw a wrench into the college’s plans. Other trustees asked, ‘What about an academic building? What about enrollment averaging?’ But I didn’t think we could pass up the lottery.”
Due to David’s leadership and insistence, the college developed an affordable faculty housing proposal and entered the lottery. Much to his delight, Westmont was the first of the 39 projects drawn. “Winning the lottery was really a spiritual experience for me,” he recalls. “It was the defining moment and gave us the energy to go on.”
But the lottery was only the beginning, and David expected a challenge. “I knew it would take awhile, cost a lot of money, and be a rough road,” he said. “I saw my role as cheerleading behind the scenes, keeping everyone going. I’m not a quitter, but even I got depressed at times. Still, I thought it was better to give it all we had and get turned down than not to do it and always wish we had.”
Throughout the grueling eight-year process and contentious public hearings, David and his wife, Elizabeth, played a pivotal role. Their leadership, determination, persistence, and significant financial support made all the difference. Without them, there would be no faculty homes today.
“We believe in Westmont and know how essential student-faculty relationships are,” David says. “When we saw professors moving farther away from campus because of housing prices, we knew it was time to act.”
“We love the college, and this was something we just wanted to do,” Elizabeth adds. “My only regret is that it took so long! We want to see the college succeed—we are so impressed by the direction President Winter has set and all he has accomplished. It’s too bad there aren’t more Westmonts around.”
David grew up in a poor family and attended barber college as a teen-ager so he could earn enough money to pay for college. He kept cutting hair at Westmont, but struggled to pay the bills and decided to transfer to Long Beach State. After graduating from Northwestern School of Dentistry, he practiced for six years and then invested in the self-storage business. Today, he and Elizabeth own 10 self-storage facilities located throughout California and Oregon.