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Honoring Ridley-Tree, Her Incredible Generosity

The Westmont community mourns the passing of Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, whose generosity made a profound impact on the college and touched the lives of many people and organizations in the Santa Barbara community. She personified what it means to be a true philanthropist.

She passed away peacefully October 3 at home with her family by her side.  

Gayle and Leslie Ridley-Tree at the Carot Opening

"She's one of the most remarkable human beings to walk the face of the earth, and I loved being with her,” says President Gayle D. Beebe. “She could be serious, and she could be incredibly joyful and funny, all in the same conversation.

“Every time we were together, I would come away with a deeper appreciation for driving issues, a richer understanding of life and a greater commitment to efforts that make life so worth living. She was always looking for the best in situations without ever glossing over the difficulties. She made every one of us better, both our lives, and our contribution."

Gayle and Leslie Ridley-Tree at the Carot Opening

The Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art, named for her, opened in the heart of Westmont’s campus during the 2010-11 season. She has donated 20 significant works of art to the college, including originals by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, seven paintings by Barbizon artists, and a large painting of Lord Paul and Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree by Bo Bartlett. 

Ridley-Tree’s Corot collection, supplemented with selected loans of Corot’s art from museums and private collections, appeared in “Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot” in 2013 at the museum. 

Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree

A 2016 exhibition on campus, “Barbizon, Realism and Impressionism in France,” featured Ridley-Tree’s extensive collection.

Her generosity helped Westmont acquire the Westmont Downtown building, 26 W. Anapamu, which underwent renovation and now houses Westmont’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in partnership with Cottage Health. She also contributed a significant gift to fund nursing scholarships. 

Along with gifts to the Westmont Orchestra, she created the Ridley-Tree Vocal Scholarship to support students in the Westmont College Choir. 

Beginning in 2008, she created the Ridley-Tree Endowed Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to students with an interest in studying art, history, music, or philosophy. 

The Lord and Lady Ridley-Tree Scholarship, which the Ridley-Tree Foundation created in 2001, has provided financial aid to Westmont students for more than two decades. 

“I will truly miss the joy that accompanied every meeting I had with her," Beebe says. "She made me a better person and a more complete follower of God. She will always live in my memory as one of the most unique human beings I’ve ever known.”