Westmont Magazine Distinguished Professors
Three professors, R. Anthony Askew, Allan Nishimura and Robert Wennberg, have received the college’s first distinguished professorship award, an honor that recognizes their exceptional commitment to their students and Christian liberal arts education.
The award, which will be given every two years, includes an additional $2,000 annual stipend to be used for their scholarly work until they retire. Professors must have taught at the college for at least 20 years to be considered for the honor.
Winners are announced during a dinner for faculty and college trustees. Recipients receive the title “Distinguished Professor” along with a plaque. Their names are also engraved on a permanent plaque displayed in the provost’s office.
According to Provost Shirley Mullen, Westmont inaugurated this award “to publically recognize the range of persistence and achievement in excellence among our faculty once they reach the full professor rank.
“The award provides a context for holding out among ourselves the values and the character of the institution that we want to perpetuate. The recipients will become role models for younger faculty.”
R. Anthony Askew
Askew, an art professor who came to Westmont in 1982, has also directed Reynolds Gallery for 19 years. A printmaker and watercolorist, he is an excellent teacher and received the Teacher of the Year award in the humanities in 2000.
“Not only did Tony bring into being the Arts Ascent Day Camp (a summer art camp for area children), but he also took leadership in forming the Art Council (a community-based group that supports Reynolds Gallery and the Art Department), in raising money for the present art building at Westmont, in establishing an art gallery, and giving art at Westmont the visibility that has attracted funds and support for our much-anticipated new art gallery,” Mullen said in bestowing the award at a special dinner Oct. 31.
“His first department chair, John Rapson, noted that even as a part-time faculty member, he was sought after as a teacher,” Mullen added. “He planned trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco, he hosted faculty-student gatherings in his home, he worked well with colleagues and he planned a summer art program for local school children.
“This strong and wide-ranging endorsement hinted at the ways in which he would enrich art at Westmont College over the next generation.
“During this time, Tony has also found time to pursue his own professional work in printmaking and watercolor. He has exhibited in some 20 one-man shows and a host of group shows — not only locally, but in places around the country and as far away as Ely, England, and Oslo, Norway.”
Allan Nishimura is a chemistry professor and chair of the chemistry department. He came to Westmont in 1981 and specializes in physical chemistry and molecular spectroscopy. He received a Teacher of the Year honor in 1998.
Like many Westmont professors, Nishimura routinely includes his students in ongoing research — 20 of his undergraduate chemistry students have been co-authors in his publications over the years. Nishimura’s students are regularly and actively sought by the best graduate schools.
“Besides his professional work outside the college, Allan has also sought to be available to the community through the CalSoap Program and various local schools to inspire young people to consider science,” Mullen said.
“Since coming to Westmont, Allan has received more than 15 external grants, including funding from such sources as the American Chemical Society, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, the Pittsburgh Conference of National College Grants and the American Physical Society,” Mullen added.
“He has continually been involved in his own research since coming to Westmont and now has over 50 publications on his vita. Allan was the first recipient of the Faculty Research Award in 1984.
“Also impressive is the fact that chemistry students have been involved in his research. The students are now doing significant work in a wide range of areas including scientific research, high school teaching, missionary service and medicine. We all know at least one of these students who benefited from Allan’s summer research program — our own Niva Tro.
“His goal of building a student research program has shaped Allan’s vision of his own vocational calling. Allan has chosen research that can go on in the context of a small liberal arts college with students. At times, his commitment to the program has meant that he has deferred his own sabbaticals to ensure that both the students and faculty in the department are getting what they need.”
Robert Wennberg, a philosophy professor who came to Westmont in 1970, has been named Teacher of the Year a record five times during his tenure. He also received a Faculty Research Award in 1986 and has written extensively on the difficult issues of abortion, euthanasia and animal rights.
“While seeking to build a strong faculty-centered college of distinction, Bob has also maintained a consistent record of scholarship in his field of ethics, producing, most notably, the trilogy of books ‘Life in the Balance’ on abortion, ‘Terminal Choices’ on euthanasia and ‘God, Humans, and Animals’ on animal concerns,” Mullen said. “His scholarship work is also marked by that careful attention to balancing tensions and to ruthless honesty about ambiguities that grows out of his gift of constructive criticism.
“That gift of constructive criticism has led Bob to take up many causes over the years, but all directed toward the end that Westmont be a place where the faculty and the mission of learning and scholarship is central — all to the glory of God.
“Consistent teaching excellence is only one of the gifts that Bob Wennberg has brought to the college, and it is not even the main reason that he is being honored. Since coming to Westmont, Bob has brought a desire not only to teach philosophy well, but to build a Christian liberal arts college. His role as a faculty leader has also led him to four terms as faculty vice chair, another record among the faculty.
“Bob has helped to make Westmont known and appreciated in the community through his work in the Santa Barbara presbytery. He has been sought after as a speaker in such diverse contexts as the Anti-Defamation League, the Rotary Club, the Wheaton Philosophy Conference and UCSB.”