Popular Computer Science Professor Dies

img_6277Kim Kihlstrom, Westmont professor of computer science, died Dec. 12 at home following a long battle with cancer. She was 56. A memorial service will be held at Montecito Covenant Church Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 2:30 p.m.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University, where she met her husband, Ken, a physics professor at Westmont. They moved to Santa Barbara to join the Westmont faculty in 1984. She taught part time until 1999, when she earned a doctorate in computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara. She served as professor of computer science at Westmont for the past 14 years, winning the Teacher of the Year award for the Natural and Behavioral Sciences as well as the Faculty Research Award. She and Ken led Westmont’s Europe Semester twice.

The Westmont community celebrated Kim’s life and achievements at a retirement reception Nov. 8. “It was a great blessing to have Kim there,” says President Gayle D. Beebe. “We were able to express our appreciation and respect for the contribution she has made to Westmont, where she has touched hundreds of lives through her professional work and personal care and ministry. Kim vibrantly expressed her deep and abiding faith. From the moment Pam and I arrived at Westmont, she was a source of encouragement, wisdom and joy. Kim was one of the kindest and most considerate individuals we have ever known. We will always remember her as a person of remarkable intellect with a warm and gracious spirit and a caring and hospitable touch.”

Kim is survived by Ken, their three children, Kathy, Karen and Kevin, their son-in-law, Ryan Timpte, their daughter-in-law, Katie, as well as Kim’s mother, Virginia Potter, and her brother, Kris Potter, who both live in Medford, Ore.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Kim Kihlstrom Computer Science Scholarship Endowment, which will be awarded to incoming students who have an interest in computer science.

Also, the college has established the Kim Kihlstrom Scholarship for Women in the Sciences, which will assist two incoming female students who have chosen to major in one of the natural and behavioral sciences. The Westmont Mathematics and Computer Science Department has named one of its top honors the Kim P. Kihlstrom Award. It will honor a graduating senior from the Computer Science program who has done outstanding coursework and research and contributed to the department’s community of learners.


  1. Erlyne Whiteman, PhD Emeritus Dance Professor, Westmont says:

    Dear Ken and family, Curt and I send our prayers and sympathy to you and your family. We have admired both you and Kim for your graciousness to us and to everyone you have touched by your academic careers and caring. Prayers, Curt & Erlyne Whiteman

  2. Eva Blaisdell says:

    With great sadness I read about Dr. Kim Kihlstrom passing. My prayers are with her family and I am touched deeply be seeing that such a valuable person, woman – scientist left us Her commitment and contribution to mission of supporting Women in the Sciences and scholarship is meaningful way to extend Dr. Kihlstrom’s presence. As a founder of currently formed in Los Angeles, Paris and Warsaw Madame Sklodowska -Curie initiative ( first woman Noble price winner ) I will seek the way to commemorate Dr. Kihlstrom. Sincerely Eva Blaisdell

  3. I never had a class with Dr. Kihlstrom, but when I would walk within eye distance of her, I always saw a smile on her face, such joy she had! May your family experience His peace and comfort at this time.

  4. Tom Andrews says:

    Dear Ken and family, I am so sorry to hear of Kim’s passing. She and you turned out to be such remarkable difference makers for Westmont, especially in the sciences. This is a great loss in so many ways. My heart grieves for you and your children. Together you have modeled what it means to embrace a community, to serve others with graciousness and hospitality, and to be teacher-scholars in God honoring ways. I celebrate what your example has meant to me, as well as to all those whose lives Kim and you have touched. Blessings, Tom.

  5. Sean Nakamoto says:

    Aloha Ken and family:
    We express our love and aloha for you and your loss…Your wife and you were such a blessing to many at Westmont and afar…we thank you for sharing your lives and your love of Jesus to us as well as man others. May God comfort you all in this time…we know and are confident of Kim and her eternity with Jesus, but we will still miss her smile and love…God bless you all and Aloha!
    Sean & Lori Nakamoto, Brandi c/o 2012

  6. Jill & Truett Thach says:

    Ken & family,
    Our deepest condolences to you. I will never forget when Kim & I were called up to jury duty together & discovered we both attended Piner High School in Santa Rosa & she was friends with my closest high school friend’s sister! The very next day at the lunch break we had each brought a yearbook to talk more about it!
    We missed you when you left Trinity Baptist. But I know you went on to be involved in another fine church.
    Blessings & prayers,

  7. I am so very sad about the passing of Kim. She was a shining light who so cared for students and her colleagues. Most especially she loved her family. We’ll miss you!

  8. Josh Reitsema says:

    I am heart broken. Ken, you are in my prayers from out here in Colorado. Your wonderful wife impacted my life so very much. I will celebrate her life well lived and faith in Jesus.

  9. April (Louie) Ikeda says:

    So sorry for your loss Dr. K praying for you and your family. The Super Bowl parties you guys hosted were something I will always cherish. Thanks

  10. Dustin Carroll says:

    Dear Ken and family,

    I am so sorry for your loss and am sending prayers. I can say this without a single doubt, Kim was the most important mentor of my life and pushed me to places I never would have imagined. She cared so much for her students – I hope that someday I can do as she did.

  11. Mark Kiekhaefer says:

    Ken: I pray that you experience God’s comfort and grace. I recall our time in Oct. 1999 at the 20 year Stanford reunion (for me and Kim). We watched SU vs. U of O football on a cloudy damp afternoon. The highlight was getting to converse with you and Kim. You were a wonderful example of husband and wife serving Christ and loving one another. My heart goes out to you at your loss. Nina and I watched the You Tube video of your Feb. 12, 2012 chapel and that was encouraging for us. May God sustain you and your family. You are in my prayers. Mark Kiekhaefer, Jefferson City, MO

  12. Erik Thompson, Stanford '79 says:

    Still have fond memories of Kim, and then of KimAndKen. I know it will be difficult to be merry during this holiday season, but I also know you have a strong enough faith to be joyful. Until we meet again.


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