Westmont Magazine Early Support for the Sciences
Nearly 12 years after moving to Santa Barbara, Westmont built its first academic building: Carroll Observatory. With students living in Quon-set huts, professors using closets for offices, and the library and dining hall sharing space, this move seems surprising.
The new facility grew out of the vision of two men: Peter Stoner and George Carroll. After teaching at Pasadena City College for more than 40 years, Professor Stoner came out of retirement to provide critical leadership in the sciences at Westmont. As chair of the division of natural sciences from 1953-57, he developed a 3-2 pre-engineering program and emphasized the importance of the sciences. Concerned about the Cold War and the need to compete with the Soviet Union, he wanted to prepare well trained scientists and engineers.
Professor Stoner’s commitment to the integral realtionship between science and faith fit Westmont’s mission well. A charter member of the American Scientific Affiliation, he wrote “Science Speaks: An Evaluation of Certain Christian Evidences” in 1952.
An amateur astronomer and chief instrument engineer at Lockheed, George Carroll had served as president of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Association of Amateur Astronomers. Acquainted with both Professor Stoner (who had directed the observatory at Pasadena City College) and Westmont founder Ruth Kerr (whom he met through church), he took an interest in the college.
In 1954 at a church social, Mr. Carroll told Mrs. Kerr he would build a large telescope for Westmont if the college would construct a building to house it. The trustees gratefully agreed and approved plans for a brick structure. An offer of donated bricks led the board to depart from the prevailing architectural style on campus. However, many of the bricks proved unusable, and the college ended up purchasing replacements.
With delays, unexpected costs, and the need to raise the $35,000 cost, construction took a year and a half. The college dedicated Carroll Observatory in June 1957.
This facility represented a major step forward for the physical sciences. The verse appearing on the building, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth His handiwork,” affirms the importance of studying God’s creation.
—Research by Professor Paul Wilt