Westmont Magazine Westmont at 55: Facing the Future in 1995
Old enough to establish its heritage yet young enough to adapt to a new century, Westmont has reached an important juncture. After five decades of confirming its character and quality, the college completed a three-year review of its future in 1995. This long-range planning process raised many crucial questions, including:
How can Westmont accommodate growth and change while remaining true to its heritage as an evangelical Christian liberal arts college?
How can Westmont justify the high cost of its education?
Can the college restructure the delivery of education to reduce cost and maximize value?
A campus-wide committee put together a series of recommendations in a detailed and visionary Long Range Planning Report and submitted it to the board in October 1995. After reviewing their work, the trustees referred the proposals to appropriate faculty and staff committees for implementation. The report sets the direction for the future and anchors Westmont as an evangelical Christian liberal arts college that emphasizes intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth.
Two other processes parallel the development of the long-range plan: the adoption of a campus master plan and a reorganization of the administration.
A desire to preserve Westmont’s beautiful campus, once an historic estate and preparatory school for boys, underlies the master plan. In addition to detailing the topography of the site and cataloging the plants, the blueprint identifies locations for the additional buildings needed to fully serve existing students.
Randy Jones, the new director of campus planning and services, joined the staff in 1995 to oversee the implementation of the master plan. An architect by training, he held a similar position at Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center in California.
In grappling with the significant financial challenges Westmont faces (including a cap on enrollment), President David Winter has reorganized the administration. When Academic Dean Bud Blankenbaker retires in the spring of 1996, a new provost will replace him and will oversee both the academic and student life areas of the college. Executive Vice President Edward Birch has already assumed responsibility for administration and finance as well as college advancement.
With only the provost and executive vice president reporting to him, President Winter will have more time to concentrate on building a better financial base. Dependent on tuition for a significant percent of its income, the college must find new sources of funding because the limit on enrollment prohibits the recruitment of additional students to raise revenue. Not only must Westmont support its existing program, but it needs to complete the campus and significantly increase the endowment. These challenges require the full attention of the president.
The events of 1995 clearly represent Westmont’s many strengths and document the serious financial challenges that lie ahead.
From its founding, Westmont has emphasized educational excellence and has matured academically by building a program known nationally for its quality and Christian character. The scholarly accomplishments of its faculty uphold this tradition.
President David Winter continues to provide leadership in American higher education as both the chair of the board of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), a position he assumed in 1995, and chair of its Senior Commission.
Three Westmont science professors received major grants in 1995 totaling nearly $450,000. George S. Ayoub, assistant professor of biology, obtained a five-year grant from the National Eye Institute to continue his work on the physiology of the retina. Warren F. Rogers, associate professor of physics, has a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for research in measuring ground-state magnetic moments of unstable nuclei. Nivaldo J. Tro, assistant professor of chemistry, also received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to study the interaction of light with surface adsorbed molecules for optical data storage for computers and solar energy conversion.
Westmont and 11 other Christian colleges share a two-year, $200,000 grant from The Pew Global Stewardship Initiative to develop interdisciplinary programs focusing on environmental issues. Jeff Schloss, professor of biology, coordinates the college’s participation in this program. Professor Schloss also received one of 97 Templeton Foundation Awards to foster interdisciplinary scholarship and educational innovation in studying the relationship between science and religion.
C. Ray Rosentrater, professor of mathematics and computer science, taught classes and helped develop a master’s program in mathematics at the National Pedagogical University in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, as a Fulbright Scholar during the fall of 1995.
Professors publishing books last year include David Lawrence, professor of political science, who completed, “California: The Politics of Diversity” (West Publishing), which shows how cultural, geographic, economic, and political diversity affect California politics. John Sider, professor of English, wrote, “Interpreting the Parables: A Hermeneutical Guide to Their Meaning.” Zondervan issued the book as part of the Studies in Contemporary Interpretation series. Thomas Schmidt, professor of New Testament, produced a comprehensive, thoughtfully argued evangelical perspective on homosexuality in, “Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate” (Inter-Varsity Press).
Faculty in the English, history, philosophy, and religious studies departments established the Erasmus Society Lectures in 1995 to bring together Christianity and the liberal arts with academic rigor, deep faith, and winsome humor. Significant scholars from a range of disciplines traveled to Westmont to present papers through this program.
Westmont finally broke ground in 1995 for the faculty housing project that will provide 20 residences for professors and their families next to campus by the summer of 1996. The second phase of 21 homes will begin in five years. Providing these affordable homes will enable Westmont to continue attracting highly qualified scholars. The project also frees up endowment funds now dedicated to helping faculty buy local homes.
Westmont has grown more selective in the applicants it accepts, and the calibre of the student body has risen accordingly. Student achievements last year reflect this trend.
Three Westmont students received scholarships to attend a major interfaith conference for youth commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995. Senior Heather Donnell from Greenville, Illinois, junior Nicole Fry from San Ramon, California, and senior Jennifer Kim from Kaneohe, Hawaii, joined only 200 other young people to discuss issues such as war and poverty from a religious perspective.
Deborah House, a senior from Fort Mill, South Carolina, won a Pew Younger Scholars Summer Fellowship at Notre Dame.
Aaron James ’94 received one of 10 three-year, $36,000 graduate fellowships for doctoral studies at Harvard University through the Pew Young Scholars Program.
Thanks to a $3,000 award, Rebecca Slayton, a senior chemistry major from Azusa, California, conducted research in the summer of 1995 with Dr. Nivaldo Tro, associate professor of chemistry. She earned one of only 18 Academic-Industrial Undergraduate Research Partnership Fellowships from the Council on Undergraduate Research.
Cory Steffen, a junior art major from San Clemente, California, won the 1995 Ludington-Parshall Scholarship Award. The Santa Barbara Art Association sponsors this $1,000 prize that recognized his outstanding printmaking talent.
Christian Concerns ministries continued to expand in 1995 as students reached out to the community in new ways. With the debut of seven new programs in the fall, the total number of student-initiated activities exceeded 30. Potter’s Clay, the outreach to the needy in Ensenada, Mexico, that involves 400 to 500 students each year, received extensive coverage in the “Santa Barbara News-Press” last year.
The flooding that deluged Santa Barbara twice in 1995 provoked a typical student response. Tori Lynn Geiler organized 40 to 50 students to help the fire department place sandbags in flooded areas. Students also assisted local residents clean up mud and debris.
In a large national survey of high school guidance counselors, Westmont received a top rating for leadership opportunities. Collegiate Information Services conducted the poll that covered 800 institutions nationwide. Westmont offers both a leadership development program and many opportunities to direct ministries and other activities.
Reynolds Gallery continued to host exciting shows by both local and nationally known artists. The involvement of the Art Center Steering Committee, a group of volunteers who raise money and staff exhibits, enables Westmont to bring in these outstanding artists. Shows during 1995 included the stunning photographs in “Life in a Day of Black L.A.”; a retrospective of work by the late Marge Dunlap; “A View with a Room,” assemblages and computer images by John Cushing; “‘The Place Setting’ and Other Works” by Westmont faculty; and the annual, juried “Une Ange Passe,” which celebrates angel forms.
The music department presented the talents of new professors John Weddle (clarinetist) and Steve Butler (composer in residence) at a faculty concert in the fall of 1995. Tenor Grey Brothers also performed as did instrumental instructors and interim choir director Howard Stevenson ’50.
John Blondell, the chair of the theatre arts department, presented more innovative theatre by staging an adaptation of the novel “No Clock in the Forest, ” by English professor Paul Willis. Professor John Cochran directed a production of “The 1940’s Radio Hour.”
The doors to the Westmont College Warrior Hall of Fame opened in 1995 with the induction of the first eight athletes. Their exemplary character, attitude, and commitment to athletics—as well as their sports achievements—won them this recognition.
The college also honored the first 11 Golden Eagle Scholar-Athletes in 1995. Recipients must be sophomores, juniors, or seniors with an overall grade-point average of at least 3.25. Athletes in each intercollegiate sport at Westmont (with G.P.A.s of 3.47–3.92) qualified for this prestigious award.
Warrior teams enjoyed successful 1995 seasons. The women’s cross country squad won the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) and finished fourth nationally. Men’s cross country placed second in the GSAC and 11th at the nationals. Men’s soccer captured the GSAC and Far West Regional titles and advanced to the second round of the NAIA tournament. Women’s tennis won the GSAC and came in 13th nationally. Women’s soccer finished first in the GSAC, and men’s basketball and track and field placed second.
Westmont built an on-ramp to the “information super highway” in 1995 by creating a campus wide computer network that provides access to the Internet and the World Wide Web. All students and most faculty and staff can now connect to the network.
The college also debuted its World Wide Web page last year. The site remains under construction, and you can watch its progress at https://www.westmont.edu.
Unfortunately, Westmont’s financial standing lags behind its academic and athletic accomplishments. Tuition-dependent and inadequately endowed, the college must diversify its sources of revenue and add to the endowment to continue to excel. While increased giving alone can’t accomplish these goals, it must play a key role. Alumni participation is crucial. Only a disappointing 15.5 percent gave to Westmont in 1995. Far short of the national average for similar colleges, this statistic belies the loyalty and affection of many alums. Mary Hubbard Given ’76, director of alumni and parent relations, notes, “As alumni become more aware of Westmont’s financial situation, I trust they’ll respond by enthusiastically supporting their alma mater.”
The College Advancement Office took a major step in 1995 to strengthen its fund-raising program by establishing The Westmont Fund and defining multiple ways of directing gifts. Focusing on annual operations such as student scholarships, faculty compensation, campus maintenance, new technology, and capital projects, this annual drive meets critical needs and establishes a solid base of donors. Through its direct-mail campaign alone, The Westmont Fund brought in nearly $100,000 in the fall of 1995.
Hiring Steve Baker ’84, an alumnus with extensive fund-raising experience, as the new vice president for development will also energize efforts to increase giving. Most recently the senior associate director for the capital campaign at the Indiana University School of Medicine, he has also worked for the University of California, Berkeley.
Westmont exceeded its goal of raising $100,000 in 1995 to secure a $40,000 match from the Mericos Foundation of South Pasadena, California, to purchase new equipment for the biology department. The extra funds will help complete research and seminar space in the Whittier Science Building.
Foundations that supported scholarship programs at Westmont in 1995 included The Ahmanson Foundation, the George H. Mayr Foundation, the James L. Stamps Foundation, and the Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation, which completed funding of its endowed scholarship.
In 1990 the Weingart Foundation of Los Angeles gave Westmont a five-year, $2.5 million challenge grant to establish a no-interest loan fund for graduates of California high schools, the second phase of a 1987 award. The Westmont College Restricted Student Loan Fund now totals $4,584,224, and the goal set for December 1996 is $7,182,932. The Emelco Foundation made a gift to the Ira Rapson Loan Fund which benefits business students thanks to a match from the Weingart program.
The American Chemical Society and the Research Corporation supported research by the chemistry department. The T. B. Walker Foundation gave money toward a chair in physical sciences. The Barnabas Foundation , the Campbell Family Trust Gift Fund, the Rivendell Trust, the Volentine Foundation, the Montgomery Street Foundation, and the Wilkie Brothers Foundation all made unrestricted gifts. The Ware Foundation awarded both restricted and unrestricted grants to the college.
Each year, major corporations and foundations support Westmont through The Independent Colleges of Southern California (ICSC), a coalition of 16 institutions. During the 1994-95 fiscal year, ICSC received $2,004,424 in corporate, foundation, and individual donations, and Westmont’s share totaled $93,203. A list of the corporations and foundations that gave to Westmont through ICSC will appear in the magazine’s next issue.
Reunion giving in 1995 set a record: $111,118. The new tradition of a senior gift continues to build, and the class of 1995 pledged $10,986 over a three-year period.
Building on these successes will allow Westmont to assure its financial viability and continue providing an excellent education.
by Nancy Favor Phinney ’74