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.
Highlights of the 2020-2021 Academic Year
We’re Open, We’re Full and We’re Safe
What an amazing year we’ve just completed. We began with remote education but brought students back to campus at the end of September and kept them here safely. We celebrated a joyous Commencement service in person May 8, the first large event we’d held in more than a year. While it looked much different with students and their two guests spread out on Thorrington Field, it felt wonderful. Students expressed deep gratitude for gathering and honoring their achievement. We look forward to a normal semester next fall and a full campus. We’re so thankful for God’s provision and blessing throughout a challenging and remarkable year.
Students return to campus and study and live safely in community for the entire year. More than 90 percent of students choose to live on campus, undergo regular testing, and follow safety protocols to keep COVID-19 cases to a minimum and prevent major outbreaks. The COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund raises $300,000. Westmont successfully manages COVID-19 on campus, conducting 8,909 COVID-19 tests during the year with a positivity rate of 1.16% and avoiding major outbreaks; Nearly 90 percent of faculty and staff are vaccinated.
Even in the midst of COVID-19, Westmont balances its budget for a record 37th straight year of operating in the black.
Donors contribute nearly $10 million to purchase the Westmont Downtown building. Now undergoing renovation, the four-story building will continue to house the Westmont Downtown semester and new initiatives.
The downtown building will also house the new Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program that begins in spring 2022 pending approval by the California Board of Nursing.
During the year, the college community engages issues related to justice, reconciliation and diversity. Lectures, discussions, the Next Step workshop, chapel speakers (especially in February), conversations in class and on campus, and trustee seminars led by George Yancey all explore our response and commitments to these important matters. Our diversity website captures the activities of the year and others in formation.
Lilly Endowment grant of $1 million helps Westmont establish the Center for Thriving Communities. The center seeks to strengthen Christian congregations to help people deepen their relationships with God and each other and contribute to flourishing communities.
Westmont raises nearly $1.7 million to construct a new engineering building to support the growing engineering program. Gifts, including a $475,000 grant from the Fletcher Jones Foundation, fully fund the structure. The college expects to complete the new facility by spring 2022.
The Santa Barbara Symphony and Westmont announce a strategic partnership to strengthen their ability to bring music education to local school children while creating a pipeline to provide lifelong musical opportunities in the community.
Recent college and university annual rankings continue to affirm Westmont as one of the top Christian liberal arts colleges in the nation: U.S. News & World Report, Payscale, Niche, Colleges of Distinction, World University Rankings.
Just when we thought the year couldn’t get any better, the Warrior track and field team finished in a phenomenal fourth place, the best in school history, at the NAIA Outdoor National Championships May 28. Senzo Zola Sokhela, a 19-year-old freshman from South Africa won two individual national championships at the event, and the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association named him the 2021 NAIA Men’s Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year, the first time a Warrior has earned this distinction. Seth Wilmoth also won a national championship in the pole vault. Sokhela sprinted to victory in the men’s 1500 (3:54.29) and captured the men’s 800 (1:50.08) two hours later. A day earlier, he anchored Westmont’s 4x800 men’s relay team, which finished in second place (7:32.71), the third fastest time in Westmont history. Sydney Marr earned her fourth All-American title by finishing sixth in the women’s hammer throw (173-10).
Admissions hosts campus visits that exceed the 2018-2019 numbers of prospective students touring campus. Westmont remains open throughout the pandemic and provides safe campus tours in person, events for admitted students and personalized visits so students and families can experience the campus, outdoor classrooms and student activities. New enrollment for fall 2021 is strong and encouraging!
Westmont holds a Commencement ceremony in person and celebrates the class of 2021 in a socially distanced service. The 306 members of the class of 2021 rank among the most determined and resilient college graduates in our nation’s history. Westmont’s terrific 1.1 percent COVID-19 testing positivity rate since September testifies to their determination to stay healthy in one of the largest states in the country.
The college moves toward replacing the Voskuyl Chapel window as a committee of professors, staff members and students discuss ideas and make a series of suggestions for new window possibilities.
Ninety-two percent of Westmont graduates from the class of 2020 find a job or attend graduate school (or plan to attend) despite a national economy sickened by the coronavirus and the Class of 2021 is poised and ready to make its mark in the workforce as well.
The arts at Westmont create innovative virtual concerts, exhibits and theatrical productions. Highlights of the year include weekly concerts, a fabulous Christmas festival and an engaging opera; virtual art exhibitions celebrating the permanent collection and senior art majors; creative theater presentations exploring contemporary issues in videos.
The virtual President’s Breakfast with Nancy Koehn on March 5 attracts the largest audience ever. The Harvard historian and author of “Forged in Crisis” shares lessons from five masters of crisis leadership. Nearly 3,000 people participate in various settings around the world.
Westmont hosted the sixth annual Advancing Women in Leadership Conference in recognition of March’s National Women’s History Month. In a partnership with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), the two-part virtual event series Lead with Action, was a success with over 2,000 global registered participants.
Westmont’s popular Lead Where You Stand conference returns virtually this month with keynote speakers David Brooks, Erin Meyer, Marcus “Goodie” Goodloe and Lisa DeBoer joining me to share insights on effective and purposeful leadership. The event will be available online beginning June 18 for $99 at westmont.edu/lead. Check out this fantastic lineup of speakers and register online.
The women’s basketball team captures the NAIA National Championship. Named the No. 1 seed for the 2020 tournament (later canceled), the Warriors come back strong this season and beat the No. 1 seed in the championship game 72-61. It’s Coach Kirsten Moore’s and Westmont’s women’s basketball’s second national win! A celebratory parade on campus after their return honors the team.
Students keep the tradition of Spring Sing alive with a dynamic virtual presentation. Spring Sing 2021: Westmont Night Live featured late-night-show-inspired videos of students from each residence hall performing humorous skits, music and a Weekend Update.
Westmont celebrates student research at an outdoor Student Research Symposium in April. The 25th Annual Student Research Symposium, celebrating more than three dozen research projects by 50 students and their professors, moves outdoors to the tennis courts. One of the best attended symposiums, the event demonstrates the Westmont community’s interest in and support for research.
Westmont remains committed to students’ spiritual growth and development and presents meaningful chapel programs online. Campus Pastor Scott Lisea and his team bring in a variety of speakers and find ways to connect with students.
Pam and I are delighted to graduate our third Westmont alum and to celebrate together as a Westmont family.
As we head into the summer months, I pray that we all can find rest and refreshment and moments to connect with family and friends, especially those we may not have seen in the past year. Join me in expressing gratitude to our Lord for a memorable and fruitful year. Great is his faithfulness!
Read more about many of these stories in the spring 2021 issue of the Westmont magazine, which will soon arrive in your mailbox.