Westmont Magazine Where Do We Go From Here?
David K. Winter
Chancellor and Interim President
These months back in the president’s office have given me a unique perspective. Of course, I fondly recall my 25 years on campus and have a sense of the development of the college that took place during that period and the years since. But I am also privileged to play a short-term role in moving the college into the future as we ponder the challenges ahead of us.
The truly miraculous gift of $75 million has a transforming potential for us. Very few institutions have this opportunity. We are the stewards of a gift that is marked by the generosity and confidence of two extraordinary and committed people. But it is up to us to be faithful and wise in how we use this money, and it is with deep gratitude and humility that we accept this challenge.
Certainly the past 30 years have seen a lot of change. We grew from 800 students, virtually no science facilities — in fact, few academic buildings of any kind — an endowment under $1 million and 60 faculty members on tenure track. Also, we were barely known outside the area and largely misunderstood within the local community. We had a spectacularly beautiful location and campus, but clearly it was our mission and people, not the resources, that made us special.
Since then we have gained approval for an average of 1,200 students, raised our endowment above $60 million, built a science building and another residence hall, expanded the dining commons, provided 41 homes for faculty, and added 30 more faculty positions. We have 19,000 alumni and are now well known throughout Santa Barbara for the character and contribution of our students. We have gained a national reputation for our academic program and the quality of our faculty. We have provided leadership in a number of national educational organizations. We are now included on most lists of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country.
In the midst of passing the campus leadership to a new president and several vice presidents, we received this marvelous gift. It could not have come at a better time. I believe we are poised to move into the most exciting period in our history, enabling us to solidify the strength and quality of our comprehensive program.
Surely there is no disagreement that this battered world and fragmented society need principled, competent leaders. That’s our business. In many ways we’re an academy for Christian leadership, a place where exceptional young men and women learn about the nature of the world and about themselves from a classic liberal arts curriculum. They gain the practical leadership skills from impressive extra-curricular programs, a variety of sports, challenging ministries and internships in the community. Most important, faculty and staff and their fellow students encourage them to grow in their personal relationship with Christ.
We now have so much more than we thought possible: location, campus, student body, faculty, a growing endowment and a local and national reputation that provides strong momentum for increased excellence. What more is needed?
I believe we need a compelling vision, and we need discipline. The world is changing so rapidly and radically that vision requires us to anticipate these changes, to constantly look ahead and see the major challenges as well as the unique opportunities.
Then we need the discipline to do something about these, to be willing to take the bold steps that will provide leadership, to make a truly significant contribution to the church and our society. Discipline means that we can’t do everything, even with greater resources. We can’t perform our mission if it becomes out of focus, if we give in to the temptation to add diversionary programs and lose our focus, our distinct and unique mission.
And discipline means we must not forget who we are. The families who support us with gifts as well as their sons and daughters do so because they have confidence that we are passionate about the preparation of men and women who love God, who understand and are committed to a thoroughly Christian world view, whose beliefs and values arise from an informed Biblical faith.
Will all this be easier now that we have this transforming gift? Most certainly. It is a marvelous blessing, beyond all our hopes and dreams, but a profound and heavy responsibility as well. May God grant us wisdom and courage in the months and years ahead as we enthusiastically take on this challenge with grateful hears.