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Westmont College

Westmont College
Westmont College logo.jpg
Christus Primatum Tenens: Christ Holding Preeminence
Motto in English
Christ Holding Preeminence
TypePrivate, Christian, liberal arts college
EstablishedOctober 29, 1937
Endowment$75 million (2016)[1]
PresidentGayle Beebe
ProvostMark Sargent
DeanEdee Schulze [2]
Academic staff
96 [3]
Administrative staff
306 [3]
955 La Paz Rd
, , ,
34°26′59″N 119°39′34″W / 34.4497888°N 119.6593305°W / 34.4497888; -119.6593305
CampusSuburban, 111 acres (45 ha)
ColorsMaroon & White
NicknameThe Warriors
AffiliationsWestern Association of Schools and Colleges; California State Board of Education; Christian College Consortium

Westmont College, founded in 1937, is an interdenominational Christian liberal arts college in Montecito near Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County, California.[5]


Ruth Kerr, owner and CEO of the Kerr Glass Manufacturing Company, established the school as the Bible Missionary Institute in 1937 on the former Westlake School for Girls campus near Downtown Los Angeles.[6] It was renamed the Western Bible College in 1939. During these early years, Kerr and the other founders decided that a liberal arts curriculum was the best direction for the school. In 1940 Dr. Wallace Emerson, the first president, renamed the school Westmont College, derived from a college in the west and in the mountains.[7] He envisioned a Christian liberal arts college that would take its place among the best in the nation.

By 1944, Westmont College had outgrown its facilities in Los Angeles. After a failed attempt to move the campus to Altadena in early 1945, the desperate search for a new campus led Mrs. Kerr and the trustees to "El Tejado", the former 125-acre (51 ha) Dwight Murphy estate in Montecito. Westmont purchased this property and moved to the Santa Barbara area in the fall of 1945.

Set in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Westmont's wooded and scenic acres provide an environment for a residential college. The campus includes buildings and land from two former estates and the historic Deane School for Boys. The grounds still feature the pathways, stone bridges, and garden atmosphere typical of Montecito, a suburb of Santa Barbara.

While Westmont has sought to preserve and use the original structures, it has also built new facilities, including Voskuyl Library, the restored Westmont Art Center, the A. Nelson Science Building, the Murchison Gymnasium Complex, and the Ruth Kerr Memorial Student Center. In 2008 Westmont broke ground for the construction of the Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics and the Adams Center for the Visual Arts.

In 2006, Westmont received a gift pledge of $75 million from an anonymous donor, the second largest gift ever to a national liberal arts college at the time.[8][9] In September 2009 Westmont was informed that the donor withdrew the pledged $75 million gift, which caused the college to put off construction of two new buildings.[10]

Westmont emphasizes the intellectual, social, and spiritual growth of students.[11] With approximately 1300 undergraduate students, Westmont attempts to provide a rigorous academic program along with a personalized, residential Christian undergraduate experience.[12][13]


Westmont College is located a few miles off of U.S. Route 101 just to the east of Santa Barbara. The city of Santa Barbara is on the central California coast and is 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles and 330 miles south of San Francisco.

The campus itself resides in the hills of Montecito and features 110 acres (45 ha) of hills, gardens, and trees. A small creek runs though the campus, often dry during summer and autumn months and typically full during the rainy spring months. It has even flooded campus buildings in El Niño years.

The campus has five on-campus dorms. The two freshman dorms are Page and Clark which are located at the upper corners of campus. Armington is at the lowest point on campus, and is usually the sophomore dorm. Emerson (formerly known as New Dorm and Everest), is at the top of campus and has ocean views in many of its rooms. Van Kampen, the most popular dorm for upper-classmen, is located in the center of the campus and was recently renovated and modernized in the summer of 2006. Some upper classmen students live in the Ocean View Apartments, a college-owned apartment building on the east side of Santa Barbara.

Academic profile

Westmont is ranked 108th in the U.S. News & World Report "America's Best Colleges 2019" list of liberal arts colleges.[14] In 2016 Forbes ranked Westmont No. 236 out of the 660 best private and public colleges and universities in America.[15] The Templeton Foundation has recognized Westmont as one of the nation's top 100 colleges committed to character development.[16]

University rankings
Forbes[17] 236
Washington Monthly[18] 170
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[19] 108

Westmont offers 26 majors, including: alternative major, art, biology, chemistry, communication studies, computer science, economics and business, education program, engineering physics, English, history, European studies, kinesiology, liberal studies, mathematics, modern languages (English, French, German, and Spanish), music, music education, philosophy, physical education, physics, political science, psychology, religious studies, social science, sociology / anthropology, and theatre arts.[20]

The student/faculty ratio is 12 to 1; 96 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty have earned terminal degrees.[21] The average class size is 18 students.[22] The students come from 25 states, 11 countries, and 33 Christian denominations. The graduation rate in 4 years is 87 percent.

The majors are not impacted, therefore students are able to change majors easily. Students aren't required to declare their major until the end of their sophomore year so as to graduate on time.

The weekly student newspaper is the "Horizon." It can be found online on its website.

Each summer, Westmont hosts a number of summer programs. From 2010 through 2015, this included the Summer Science Program, which teaches astronomy to high school students. The Westmont campus features a 24-inch telescope.


For the class of 2015 (enrolled fall 2011), Westmont received 2,319 applications and accepted 1,424 (61.4%).[23] The number enrolling was 332; the yield rate (the percentage of accepted students who enroll) was 23.3%.[23] Of the 56% of entering freshmen who submitted class rank, 40% were in the top 10% of their high school classes; 72% ranked in the top quarter.[23] The middle 50% range of SAT scores for enrolled freshmen were 540–650 for critical reading, 540–650 for math, and 540–650 for writing. The middle 50% range ACT Composite score was 23–29.[23]

Off-campus programs

Off-campus programs are an important part of the Westmont experience with over 60 percent of students participating in a program at some point in their studies. Westmont offers a number of off-campus programs. These programs are run with a faculty member and include the Europe semester, England Semester, Westmont in Mexico, Westmont in Istanbul, and the San Francisco Urban program. Some students choose to participate in semester exchanges at one of the colleges in the Christian College Consortium, such as Gordon College, Houghton College, Seattle Pacific University, and Wheaton College (IL). Additionally, many students participate in other qualifying programs, including semesters in New Zealand, Belize, Washington DC, Chile, Italy, France, and Lithuania. Students receive transferable credit while they live and study abroad in these different programs. Some students work in internships while they are off campus, and many choose Washington DC or the San Francisco Urban program for this purpose.

Student life

Spring Sing

Westmont hosts a popular annual student event Spring Sing, which in past years has been held at the Santa Barbara County Bowl or UC Santa Barbara auditorium. This event is a competition between the dorms with eight-minute musical comedy skits.

The skits incorporate an average of four or five clips of popular songs with altered original lyrics and original choreography. The lyrics are usually changed to reflect a humorous progression of the skit's main story. The dorm that wins has bragging rights for the next year.

Past sweepstakes winners have been Van Kampen Hall Women (2013), Page Men (2012), Van Kampen Hall Men (2011) and Armington Hall Men (2010).

Potter's Clay

Potter's Clay is a popular ministry program that occurs every year in Ensenada, Mexico during Westmont's spring break. Students interact with the local population and churches to help with construction, Vacation Bible School, and medical work.

Student Life Statement

Westmont College, an openly Christian education facility, asks all incoming students, trustees, administrators, faculty, and staff to sign a Community Life Statement.[24] In it a member of the Westmont Community will find a guide regarding what is to be expected of their lifestyle and behavior while at Westmont. While living up to these guidelines might be found difficult, one school administrator explained, "I would say, as with all students, we want to care and love them along the way." [25]

In 2011, an open letter to the college expressed the "doubt, loneliness and fear" that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students have felt while attending the college.[26] After alumni added their support to the letter, a Westmont representative responded saying, "I would love for us to be a safer place to talk about those questions than we are," Also pointed out was the school's diversity statement, an excerpt of which reads "Westmont does not tolerate racial, ethnic, religious or gender slurs, or other forms of verbal abuse; threatening behavior or threatening messages; the creation of a hostile environment; or any form of harassment."[25]

The same administrator also stated "We're hoping to do a better job of talking to and loving each other and holding true to our scriptural principles."[27]


Spark Radio is the official radio station of the college.


Westmont College teams, nicknamed athletically as the Warriors, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, soccer, tennis and track & field; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, soccer, tennis, track & field and volleyball.

The men's soccer team won the NAIA national championship in 1972.[28] The women's soccer team has won the NAIA national championships in 1985, 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2003.[29] The women's tennis team won the NAIA national championship in 1982.[30] The women's basketball team won the NAIA basketball championship in 2013.

Westmont has several club sports. The Equestrian Polo Team were the NCAA Polo National Champions in 2013 and 2014 and was a runner-up in 2007 to Texas A&M (12–8) and again in 2012 to the University of Virginia (23–17). They also compete in rugby football, ultimate frisbee, men's volleyball and cheerleading.


Westmont is located in a high fire area with limited access via narrow winding roads. Campus buildings were burned in fires in 1964, 1977, and 2008, and the campus has been threatened or partially damaged by fires on multiple other occasions.[31] The campus is routinely used as a staging area for firefighters when fires threaten the Montecito area. As a condition of approval of their Master Plan, Westmont agreed to a controversial "shelter in place" plan, also called "stay and defend" procedure, in case of a wildfire.[32][33] The college has a comprehensive wildfire response plan in place.[34]

Coyote Fire of 1964

The Coyote Fire began on September 22, 1964 in a canyon near Westmont's campus. The fire burned 75,000 acres and over 100 homes. Catherwood Hall, a men's dorm on the Westmont campus, was destroyed.[35]

Sycamore Canyon Fire of 1977

The Sycamore Canyon Fire began on July 26, 1977 when a kite blew into power lines. Nearly 200 homes were burned, including several homes of Westmont employees, as well as 40 acres of undeveloped college property and part of an athletic field.[35]

Tea Fire of 2008

On November 13, 2008, the steep and wooded Westmont campus was heavily damaged in the Tea Fire, which started in the hills near Montecito. No injuries were reported on the campus.[36][37] Numerous structures on the campus, including the Physics Lab, Psychology Building, Math Building, and 15 faculty homes were destroyed.[38] The Clark residence hall was severely damaged.[39] The Quonset Huts were also destroyed. Much of the campus's landscaping, consisting of oaks, eucalyptus trees and semi-arid vegetation, was burned.

Flames were spotted above upper campus around 5:30 p.m. on November 13. Students were led to Murchison Gymnasium, where they remained until the situation outside was safe. Doors and openings were sealed with masking tape to prevent smoke entry and a ventilation system was activated. The American Red Cross provided blankets and pillows to the hundreds of Westmont students, neighbors, and Preview/Visiting students. In the early morning after the immediate danger had passed, students were allowed to access their cars in certain parking lots and leave the campus. Others remained in the gymnasium until they found a ride off campus. Friends, family, local churches, and other sources provided temporary housing to refugees.

Classes resumed December 1 with the semester ending, as originally planned, on December 19, 2008.

Thomas Fire of 2017

The Westmont campus was evacuated in December 2017 due to the Thomas Fire. The last week of classes for the semester was cancelled, and final exams were administered as take-home exams. The campus was defended by a volunteer fire brigade, and it became one of the headquarters for CAL FIRE firefighting efforts.[38][40] No campus buildings were destroyed, and students returned to start the spring semester as scheduled on January 8, 2018, only to evacuate again on January 10 because of the threat of mudslides following the fire.[41] The combined risk of fire and mudslide led to a record five evacuations of campus during the 2017-2018 school year, but the campus ultimately suffered minimal damage.[42]

Notable people




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External links