Gayle D. Beebe, Ph.D.
Gayle D. Beebe became Westmont’s eighth president in 2007 after serving as president of Spring Arbor University in Michigan for seven years. His inauguration in 2008 featured speeches by Steve Forbes, chief executive officer of Forbes, and Steve Sample, former president of the University of Southern California. Read more about the President.
Blooming Anew: Where do we go from here?
Being mindful of God’s presence with us can help us respond to challenges and crises. Evidence of spring around Westmont’s campus always reminds me of new life and new beginnings. It’s my favorite season of the year. Some of the most beautiful photos of campus take place during spring, and this year’s super bloom around Santa Barbara is spectacular! God’s natural beauty endures despite the virus.
It’s been five weeks since we’ve entered this strange and challenging season and a new remote learning experience. We miss the students. We miss all the activities that spring brings. We miss the energy the warm weather brings out in us because we can remain outdoors longer and into the evenings. We’re experiencing a daunting time, but we know it will pass and we’ll be together again. Life will carry on—just in modified ways. I’m heartened by our students and their optimism to register for summer and fall classes. They’re anxious to return to campus, and we’re anxious to plan for their return. They’ve done an amazing job shifting to Zoom sessions and online learning. They demonstrate true Westmont strength and resilience. They respond so well in the face of crisis. I remain hopeful as I share with you what has taken place around and through Westmonters this spring.
Faculty Quickly Shift to Remote Learning
Westmont faculty pivoted quickly following spring break to teach their students remotely through online communities and learning experiences. Provost Mark Sargent provided a new webpage that shared a range of fresh resources for teaching remotely and proctoring exams. Eileen McQuade, associate dean of the faculty, provided professors with tools to make the mid-semester adjustments to pedagogy and course design. Armed with Canvas Studio and Zoom technologies, faculty confronted new obstacles and discovered new remedies. The Provost’s Office distributed daily briefings to faculty with some of the best articles and counsel from remote learning specialists throughout the country and offered webinars to help them refine their remote teaching skills. Professors received advice about Zoom etiquette, videos about teaching methods, and updates about support services, such as the registrar’s office and the library.
Students Share Creativity and Grit
Many Westmont students have found strength during their weeks-long quarantine and remote learning through music. John Butler ’20 has collaborated with fellow Westmont student musicians on social media. He encourages people to send him a 10-second video of them singing or playing a musical instrument and, using a multi-screen layout, he harmonizes by adding multiple vocal or instrumental parts, creating a new original piece of music. John got the idea from Jacob Collier, a 25-year-old English singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist, who used the concept to catapult his career in 2017. Caleb Ritchie ’20 jumped in first, sending a video of himself playing the didgeridoo. Julianne Jimenez ’22 shared a dissonant harp segment, which John turned into a heavy metal song. He also created a beautiful duet with Alyssa Mae Tumlos ’22 singing Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall.”
“I wanted to do this simply because it was a challenge,” Butler says. “You never know what you’re going to get, and it’s always a blank piece of paper when someone sends you a video. It’s a really great way to share my love of music with people and those who send me videos.”
“During COVID-19 quarantine, we can only control our efforts and attitudes,” John says. “It surely is a wonderful way to spend my time when there’s nothing else to do. It forces me to get better at my craft while also being a really enjoyable musical outlet I can utilize during these weird times.”
John also belongs to a jazz quartet, The Dumpster Cats, which offered a remote, multi-screen edition of their song “Jacaranda,” performed by Butler (drums), Simon Blondell (saxophone), son of Westmont theater professor John, Tim Beccue ’18 (bass) and Jay Real ’19 (keyboards).
Taking Quarantine Treats to the Street
Many Americans have taken to baking while sheltering at home. Mary Pat Whitney, director of public and advancement events at Westmont, has raised the bar, baking brownie bars and a whopping 12,000 cookies for the Westmont and Santa Barbara communities. This effort started as a way to show gratitude to local first responders and essential businesspeople and grew into a large-scale operation for Mary Pat and her twin daughters, Emily and Kate. Donning gloves, masks and hairnets, the Whitneys have taken their goodies to the emergency department and critical care units at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, AMR Ambulance Company, MarBorg Industries, to each residence hall for the remaining students on campus and the Westmont Executive Team’s daily meetings. “For Easter, we delivered Easter baskets of baked goods to all six of Westmont’s occupied residence halls on campus as well as individual treat bags for the students at Ocean View Apartments,” Mary Pat says.
She also committed to delivering cookies to anyone celebrating a birthday while sheltering at home. “Receiving homemade treats that they can enjoy with their families just makes an otherwise strange birthday a little happier,” she says.
Mary Pat’s cookie craze hit an early snag when the nationwide baking boom sapped the local flour supply. She sent out a wide-reaching email and Facebook post and the community responded. “I received lots of donations of unopened bags of flour that we went and picked up from people’s front porches,” she says. “We bake and package items during the day and make a delivery run after dinner every night. It has been fun and has given us purpose.”
Our Alumni Heroes
Kerry McGuigan ’05 Gillette serves on the front line of the fight against COVID-19 with Mosaic Medical’s Mobile Community Clinic, which treats the homeless and at-risk youth in Central Oregon. Initially, clinic leaders wanted to shut down the van to protect the safety of the medical team during the pandemic. “I felt that while the rest of our community might have access to telemedicine appointments, the majority of my homeless patients do not,” says Kerry, a physician assistant. “It’s very clear, thinking back to other disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, that the poor and marginalized are disproportionately affected. I was strongly opposed to pulling back completely, as it would effectively cut off my patients from access to primary care during a pandemic, which was unacceptable to me.” Read More
Westmont alumna Kim Wertheimer ’12, a nurse who lives in Detroit, has created Masks on a Mission to help get critical face masks in the hands of every healthcare worker during the COVID-19 pandemic. The neonatal intensive care unit nurse felt the anxiety for other nurses who faced shortages of personal protective equipment. A friend offered to sew a mask, which sparked the idea that Kim help protect those working against the coronavirus. She received an outpouring of support and donations for the masks after posting the concept on Instagram. Soon she was shipping boxes of masks as Masks on a Mission took off.
Spring Sing Goes On Remotely
More than 500 people watched Emerson Hall win the 59th annual Spring Sing, “In Your Dreams,” live online April 25 for the first time in the event’s history. “Although it was challenging to come up with a format allowing students to participate while complying with social distancing guidelines, this Spring Sing showcased the creativity and resourcefulness of our community,” says Alex Cameron, associate director of campus life.
The video stream, which is available for on-demand viewing, features masters of ceremony Rebecca Boa and Lizzy Green, 90-second videos from most residence halls and video side acts, including a performance by alumnus Will Breman who competed on “The Voice.” “The real stars of the show are the students who directed, wrote, choreographed and acted in each skit, and we were excited to showcase their talents in a different way this year,” Alex says.
During the livestream, the Spring Sing Committee simultaneously began an Instagram live on @westmontspringsing to follow along with the show and create a virtual space for our community to watch together, comment and cheer on the performers.
Warriors Claim Eighth Straight GSAC All-Sports Award
For the eighth year in a row, Westmont has won the Golden State Athletic Conference All-Sports Award, given annually to the school with the best overall athletic performance.
Westmont Athletic Director Dave Odell says the award reflects consistent excellence across all sports. “Prior to the suspension of spring sports and the cancellation of the national basketball tournaments, we were experiencing one of our most successful years athletically,” he says.
The award is based on final regular season standings or conference championships. Schools earn 10 points for a first-place finish, nine for second, etc. Each school also receives a point for each GSAC sport the institution sponsors. Dividing the point total by the number of sports determines the score.
“We had our highest overall winning percentage and grabbed at least a share of five out of seven GSAC championships, a phenomenal achievement,” Odell says.
$50,000 Matching Gift Doubles Your Support
Westmont’s generous supporters helped the college surpass a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund goal of $50,000 that unlocked a matching gift of $50,000 from an anonymous Westmont family. I want to thank all of you, who in a time of great personal sacrifice and challenge, pulled together to help the college significantly. We’re incredibly grateful for you and continue to be thankful for the generosity for the Westmont family. We appreciate the calls we’ve received and requests from many of you asking how you can help. Currently the fund, which will help offset significant unplanned expenses from the pandemic and the need to evacuate campus, has raised more than $170,000. Read More and Give
Composition Student Shares Psalm 121
Sarah Hooker ’20, a music composition major and graduating senior, wrote an original composition for Psalm 121–one of my favorite Psalms. We’ve arranged it with the scenes of spring for many to enjoy.
Sarah plans to mentor and tutor children through the AmeriCorp City Year program beginning in July. She may apply to graduate schools for the fall of 2021 to pursue a master’s degree in some form of music composition, potentially film score composing. Read More
I know that all of you face enormous changes to your lives and that some of you are struggling with forms of isolation, loss of income, and the overall uncertainty of this unprecedented time in our lives. We’re working hard to finish our semester, plan for Mayterm and our fall semester and continue to support and encourage our students, families, faculty and staff.
How can we pray for you? Every day, a rotating group of faculty and staff prays for the Westmont community and the emails we receive at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send us your specific requests.
In these times, we can deepen our understanding of God's provision and affirm his great faithfulness. I’m so thankful that God has sustained Westmont for 83 years and trust that we’ll continue to experience his mercies and blessings.
May the peace of God be with you and yours this season,
Gayle D. Beebe