President's Briefing September 2021

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.

It’s been fantastic to welcome the class of 2025 to campus as our much-anticipated fall semester gets underway. I love the energy and optimism of this new class, and we’re thrilled to hold classes and chapel indoors and in person. We launch this school year with a great sense of anticipation as we seek to cultivate thoughtful scholars, grateful servants and faithful leaders. There is just tremendous joy in serving God’s purposes through our work at Westmont.

Welcome Home, Warriors

We’re pleased to welcome 410 impressive new students from around the world. Twenty-three of them have spent two or more years living abroad, and 15 are international students. The new students represent 18 countries and 33 U.S. states. They have persisted throughout the pandemic and tell stories of incredible journeys and diligence to start their college experience at Westmont. 

Many spent the last academic year learning remotely and are thrilled to be learning in face-to-face classes. In compliance with county regulations, all faculty, staff and students must wear masks when attending classes indoors, participating in indoor events or working in shared offices. Campus Pastor Scott Lisea led the first chapel of the semester in Murchison Gym, the first in-person service for more than half the student body because of the remote participation we were required to uphold last year. Please continue to visit our COVID-19 website for the latest news and updates.

Generous Gifts Inspire Hope

With great appreciation, I announce two major gifts totaling more than $15 million, the two largest cash gifts in college history. 

In late August, Westmont received $8.2 million from Ed and Mollie Miller. It supports the Paul Raymond Miller Scholarship Endowment, named in honor of Ed’s father and originally established 35 years ago when their daughter, Barbara, enrolled at Westmont. In the intervening 35 years, this scholarship has supported hundreds of students who depend on financial aid to attend Westmont. In addition, Ed served on Westmont’s Board of Trustees for 17 years, chairing the Finance Committee for much of that time.

I loved working with Ed when he was a board member, and Mollie is a delightful and encouraging woman dedicated to the mission of Westmont. Both are highly principled people of faith, and their priorities in life shine through in this gift. 

Earlier in August, we received a $7.25 million gift from Celeste and Robert White. This gift has funded the purchase of 29 W. Anapamu, a four-story building in downtown Santa Barbara directly across from 26 W. Anapamu, which Westmont purchased last year. Together, these two facilities provide nearly 30,000 square feet for several downtown programs, including the semester-long program in capital and social entrepreneurship and the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, which begins Spring 2022 in partnership with Cottage Health pending approval by the California Board of Registered Nursing.

The new facility will provide space for several programmatic initiatives that will extend the college’s reach and impact in ways that benefit the local community. Celeste, a 1976 Westmont graduate and current board member, has been involved in the college since her time as a student. I’m incredibly grateful for Celeste’s service as a board member. She demonstrates her deep and abiding loyalty and commitment to the college in numerous ways. For example, all four of their children attended Westmont. In addition, Robert has been a great partner with Celeste in embracing all things Westmont. Together they have given generously and cared deeply about the college’s life and mission. 

Welcoming New Faculty

I’m delighted to announce the addition of four new tenure-track professors to Westmont this fall: Ben Carlson (physics), Dan Jensen (engineering), Gewnhi Park (psychology) and Alastair Su (history). 

Ben Carlson joins the Westmont physics department from University of Pittsburgh, where he was a Samuel Langley postdoctoral fellow. He works on the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, and has technical expertise on hadronic jet and missing transverse momentum triggers. He enjoys involving his students in his research, which focuses on dark matter and the Higgs boson. He earned a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. 




Dan Jensen joins the college as director of engineering to prepare adaptive engineers committed to blending science, engineering and the arts. A senior fellow at the International Design Center at Singapore University of Technology and Design and MIT, he spent 21 years teaching engineering mechanics at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has worked on the design of hundreds of products, processes and services. The author of more than 135 peer-reviewed papers, he has secured grants totaling $6 million in research funding and overseen the creation of dozens of patents. He earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. The new engineering program blends courses in engineering, physics, mathematics and chemistry. It equips graduates to find innovative solutions to enduring problems by cultivating collaboration, problem-solving and moral discernment. Twenty-five new students have joined the program this fall.


Gewnhi Park examines how the body and mind interact and influence different cognitive and emotional processes and social interaction. Her research has explored the interaction between the brain and heart and how the cardiac vagal tone indicates how well the brain functions. She incorporates those findings into other self-regulatory systems, cognitive processing and emotional processing. She earned a doctorate in cognitive psychology from Ohio State University and most recently taught at Hope College in Michigan. 



Alastair Su, who teaches U.S. history, is completing his first book about America and the opium trade in the 19th century. He seeks to help his students navigate what it means to be both a citizen of heaven and a citizen of the United States. He graduated from Harvard before earning a doctorate in history from Stanford University.



Other new instructors and lab coordinators include: Will Allison (physics/engineering), Evan Barnes (biology), Pauline Remy (one-year position, modern languages; not pictured) and Terrance Yi (mathematics) serving a one-year position. The fall faculty retreat warmly welcomed all new faculty and we enjoyed in-person activities, engagement and fellowship before the semester began.

Carol Velas Helps Launch Westmont’s Post-Baccalaureate Nursing Program 

After helping design Westmont’s nursing program, Carol Velas has joined the faculty as the founding director of the college’s new Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program. The first cohort of students arrives in January 2022 pending approval from the California Board of Registered Nursing. Carol earned a Master of Nursing from CSU Dominguez Hills and a Doctor of Education in educational leadership and policy from CSU Northridge. In 35 years as a registered nurse, she has worked in oncology, medical/surgical, labor and delivery, post-partum, newborn nursery and pediatrics. She has managed a women’s unit and a cancer program, developed staff and been both an assistant nursing program director and nursing program director. She has taught nursing at the associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral levels. She also served as senior manager for state licensing and accreditation at Chamberlain University in Chicago.

New Artist/Scholar-In-Residence for Theater Arts

Johnny Jones, a writer and professor with more than a decade of experience teaching and working as a playwright and theater director, is Westmont’s first artist/scholar-in-residence for the theater department’s new Initiative for Justice and Global Engagement. Most recently, Jones directed the African American Theater Program at the University of Louisville. At Westmont, he will direct a staged reading series featuring modern to contemporary playwrights and plays that engage justice, reconciliation and diversity. He graduated from the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff and earned a Master of Arts from New York University and a Master of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts. 

The Doctor Is In

Dr. Rob Hughes ’04 has wanted to direct student health services at Westmont since he worked in the Health Center as a student, and he accepted this position in August as Dr. David Hernandez retired. Most recently, he served as staff physician and intercollegiate athletics medical director at UC Santa Barbara’s Student Health Service for six years. He earned his medical degree from Loma Linda University School of Medicine and served as an intern/resident at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Family Medicine Residency. He also worked at Sansum Urgent Care. “My education at Westmont prepared me for the rigors of medical school and helped me build a Christ-centered framework that has sustained me throughout medical school, residency training and my career as a physician,” he says. He met his wife, Dr. Kristen Kleen Hughes ’04, at Westmont. 

A Weekend of Celebration: Commencement 2020 and Homecoming 2020/2021

 More than 170 Westmont graduates from the class of 2020 return to campus for the traditional, formal Commencement they missed due to the pandemic. These resilient graduates will celebrate with all the regalia, bagpipes, the Westmont Orchestra and robed faculty under a giant tent on Carr Field on Oct. 16. Marcus ‘Goodie’ Goodloe, a Martin Luther King Jr. scholar, senior fellow for ethics and justice at Dallas Baptist University’s Institute for Global Engagement and a parent of a Westmont student, will speak.

To celebrate the class of 2020’s one-year reunion, the Alumni Office will hold a Cap and Gown Pickup Party, with graduates and professors gathering Friday night under the tent on Carr Field. Designed to feel like the Senior Celebration, the event includes a DJ, raffles and food. Later, the evening will shift to a time of worship led by musicians from the class. The campus will close to the public on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon for the long-anticipated ceremony. 

On Saturday afternoon, Homecoming 2020/2021 will feature lunch, a children’s fair, a young alumni tailgate, men’s and women’s soccer games and the annual All-Alumni Awards Celebration. This year’s awardees are Alumnus of the Year Reggie Williams ’95, Alumna of the Year Sharon Koh ‘00, Young Alumnus of the Year Daniel Guzman ‘12 and Global Service Award winner Michael Trueblood. Find the full schedule on the Homecoming website.

Supporting the Arts Live and in Person

After enjoying virtual events last year, we invite you to participate in all our wonderful activities this fall on campus or in the surrounding community. Our talented art faculty present an exhibition, “Sight & Insight: Westmont College Studio Art Faculty Exhibition,” at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art through Oct. 30. 

Westmont’s accomplished music faculty perform Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in Deane Chapel. In Michael Shasberger’s final year with the college, the orchestra will perform its annual fall concert Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 24 at 3 p.m. at the Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall. Please contact the music department at to check on COVID-19 restrictions. 

Johnny Jones directs "NEXUS: Readings from Black Playwrights." The first of the three readings in the series will be held Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. in Porter Theatre. 

Upcoming Live Events

Nov. 5 Geoffrey Moore, the high-tech legend, speaks at a Mosher Center Event
Dec. 3-5 17th Annual Christmas Festival; tickets go on sale November 11
March 4 President’s Breakfast
June 1-3 LEAD Where You Stand Leadership Conference


I deeply appreciate the hard work of our faculty and staff and the extra effort they make to keep our community safe as the school year gets underway. We also value the many people in our extended community who support the college with their prayers and gifts and keep us strong.

May God bless you all,