Westmont Magazine Carrying Our Tradition into a New Century
As we approach the end of this year we are also approaching the end of the century, so it is a rather dramatic time to reflect on our history — and our future.
I am sure that many organizations (even educational institutions) are developed to respond to particular needs, some of which may no longer exist. Westmont’s founders apparently anticipated needs that have grown stronger over time. Today we find the college’s distinctive character a superb response to the greatest needs I can imagine, for our society and world as well as for the Christian church.
Thus I would like to focus first on the state of society and the church and note the ways in which our mission makes significant contributions. Then we can consider Westmont’s future, as we continue to refine and improve the high quality of the college program.
A demanding program in a time of change
To begin with, students need even stronger academic preparation today. During the last three decades, from the 1960s through the 1980s, rapidly developing computer technology has exploded in size and significance. Our society places greater emphasis on scientific education and greater rigor in all areas. With our strong liberal arts heritage, Westmont has built a curriculum that emphasizes very high quality in the sciences as well as the arts.
For example, biology has become one of our largest majors. Leading graduate schools recognize the excellence of our students in chemistry, biology, physics, psychology and mathematics. The small size of our classes, the number of faculty with earned doctorates in relation to the number of students, and the personalized education we can provide all give Westmont an enormous advantage over most university undergraduate programs.
For us, educating undergraduates is not simply one of our responsibilities, it is our entire mission. This allows us to focus on the quality of their experience.
Westmont is very tough. It is surely one of the most demanding and challenging colleges in the western United States. As the public continues to become aware of the need for extremely competent and educated men and women, this will further support the distinctive mission of Westmont.
Character truly counts
But more than strong academic preparation is needed in our society and world. The last few years have demonstrated the urgent need for leaders with integrity and commitment. It may be true that our society is willing to elect individuals who lack the virtues that we have valued throughout our history, but this does not negate the significance of character development, it makes this even more important.
Our society now desperately needs men and women of conviction and integrity, and Westmont is an absolutely ideal college to foster these major dimensions of personal growth. It is gratifying that again this year the highly respected Templeton Foundation has chosen Westmont as one of the 100 colleges and universities in the country that best encourages the development of personal character.
We have always chosen faculty members for these qualities. It is not enough to be a true scholar, or even a scholar who can communicate effectively with undergraduate students. At Westmont our faculty must be people who are ready and willing to serve as models, professors who share themselves and their personal faith and convictions with students. As our students come to know our faculty and staff members, they can identify with these fine men and women. This is essential if students are to grow in their own development of character.
Combine personal student-faculty relationships with strong and attractive chapel services, convocations, and times in faculty homes, and the result is a college experience that contrasts dramatically with that of most college and university students today. Westmont students are known in the Santa Barbara community for their wholesome values, sensitivity to those in need, work ethic, loyalty, and discipline. I cannot imagine another time when there has been a greater need for men and women of character, able to provide leadership in every area of our society and world.
A Christian world view in a post-Christian world
But there is a third area which is in even shorter supply. We need men and women who have an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. This is not simply an organizational affiliation or belief in a particular doctrinal statement, as important as that may be. The need is for a perspective, a world view that rises above denominational differences and styles of worship to focus on the essentials of our faith in the face of a post-Christian period in history.
In today’s world of many cultures and values we are not attempting to convert people to a particular culture or church, but to be transformed into leaders in every culture who will follow Christ at any cost or sacrifice. Our graduates are highly educated Christians who understand the world and themselves in relation to their faith. They build their lives on intellectual truths developed in concert with a depth of character and Christian commitment.
Westmont is recognized because our graduates possess both intellectual rigor and an attractive and strong depth of character and commitment to Jesus Christ. The continuing increase in applications for admission and in financial support for the college gives evidence of the growing recognition of the need for Westmont graduates.
What an exciting time in the history of the college to provide young men and women with these outstanding qualities who will respond to the need for leadership in our world.
To meet this challenge in the coming decade, we expect to complete four to five new buildings, which will move us toward completing the basic facilities needed for the 1,200 students studying on our Montecito campus. This goal requires a dramatic increase in our endowment to ensure the continued effectiveness of our programs.
In fact, completing the campus and increasing the endowment are necessary in fulfilling our important and distinctive mission. We have built a first-rate academic program and recruited truly outstanding professors and students. They deserve to work and study in classrooms, labs, residence halls, and study and recreational areas that match the quality of our faculty, staff, and students.
Adding additional endowed faculty chairs and endowed scholarships will help us continue to attract and retain the finest faculty and students.
Our extraordinary location and campus combine with a distinguished faculty and comprehensive program to equip graduates who will take their place as leaders in all areas of our society.
As “world Christians” our Westmont graduates will make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ. People in the next century will recognize and follow the example of an institution that takes seriously its motto, “In all things Christ preeminent.”
In the pages that follow you will read about some of the programs and facilities that will help advance Westmont into the next millennium as a national leader in higher education. We have seen a momentum over the past years that excites us all. We hope you will catch that excitement and join us in fulfilling the vision held by our founders, to be one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the nation, deeply committed to Jesus Christ.