Westmont Magazine A Season for Building at Westmont
By Gayle D. Beebe, Ph.D.
Ruth Kerr, a woman of remarkable energy, character and intellect, established a school in 1937 that combined rigorous academics with a deep love of God. Our first president, Wallace Emerson, shared her commitment to this vibrant, faith-based education. Together they built a strong foundation for our mission, which remains deeply meaningful to us and relevant in the world today.
The story of Westmont’s founding continues to inspire and guide me. The twin planks set forth from the beginning have sustained us over the years and form the basis for the five components of our educational program. We hold firm to our calling as an undergraduate, liberal arts college committed to Christ where students live in a residential community and develop a global perspective.
Our distinctive mission focuses on educating the whole person so our students can develop their talents, discover their calling and prepare to enter our global society. A Westmont education transforms graduates for a lifetime of service in a wide variety of careers throughout the world.
This holistic approach requires a variety of resources, including the best possible facilities for the 21st century with all the labs, equipment, studios and technology appropriate for classes ranging from the arts to the sciences. Our students worship, live in community and play on campus, so we seek to provide additional places where they can flourish in their many activities.
That’s what makes the Bright Hope for Tomorrow campaign so crucial. The fine new facilities — Adams Center for the Visual Arts, Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics, athletic fields and a new observatory — provide essential tools for carrying out our mission. In these well-designed and effective spaces, professors and students can flourish together, expanding their minds, their faith and their service. For many years, they’ve excelled despite the buildings, not because of them. How much more can faculty and students accomplish in new spaces designed to draw forth their greatest potential?
As a relatively young college, Westmont hasn’t had the opportunity to complete its campus. In 1976, we received permission from Santa Barbara County to increase enrollment from 800 to 1,200, which we achieved in 1986. But we haven’t added new buildings in the last 25 years to serve a larger student body. In fact, we have less than half the square footage per student of the top-ranked liberal arts colleges in our peer group. In the 2010 U.S. News & World Report listing of the colleges in the nation, Westmont appears in the top tier of liberal arts schools ranked as No. 92.
Lack of space hinders our academic program by limiting the courses and labs we can offer. Prospective students notice and question the absence of academic facilities when they visit. Despite the beauty of our scenic campus, the buildings seriously lag behind the quality of our people and program.
In 1994, Westmont decided to move ahead with two new academic buildings to address the lack of space on campus. But county officials asked the college to revise its existing master plan before proceeding with these facilities. In response, Westmont began a lengthy and detailed process to develop, review and submit an updated master plan, which the county accepted as complete in 2000. After many hearings, meetings with neighbors and consultation with county officials, Westmont finally received approval for the updated master plan in 2007. Thankfully, it stood the test of three appeals, receiving unanimous votes at all levels. What a joy it was to break ground at last on Adams Center and Winter Hall.
This is a crucial time in our history. We’ve finally gained the opportunity to build facilities that serve our student body and match the quality of our faculty and academic program. The provisions of our master plan and county regulations provide a limited window for completing these projects. Once this opportunity passes, we must wait years before we can build again.
Now is the time God has given us to complete these essential facilities. The many delays have helped us design the best possible spaces, which have been meticulously planned in thoughtful and environmentally conscious ways.
We’re thankful for the many alumni, parents and friends who are participating in the Bright Hope for Tomorrow campaign. They are making an impact at Westmont — and on the world — by helping us graduate students with the knowledge, skills and heart to meet the great and pressing needs of our time.