Westmont History in the Interim

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As Westmont enters its 70th year, the college is recruiting a new president, a new provost and a new vice president for finance. It’s not a new situation. In 1971, after President John Snyder resigned, Westmont also lacked a president, an academic dean and a business manager.

The late Kenneth Monroe recalled his appointment as interim president that year. “The evening of my birthday, July 7, 1971, board members and their spouses had dinner in the Pasadena Hilton Hotel, after which there was a meeting in one of the hotel conference rooms. Westmont was again in a very unenjoyable situation. There was much prayer and much discussion. Late in the evening, a motion: ‘I move Ken Monroe leave the room.’ In a quarter of an hour, I was escorted back into the room, and the chairman said, ‘You are interim president of Westmont College.’ He served for a year until Lyle Hillegas succeeded to the presidency.

Monroe was assuming this responsibility for the third time. In 1947, the longtime professor and administrator belonged to a four-member committee that led the college during the fall semester until James Forrester arrived as the second president in 1948. Dean Elbert McCreery had been interim president since 1946 when President Wallace Emerson grew too ill to work, but McCreery retired in 1947. A few years later, after the board fired Forrester over his push to move the campus back to Los Angeles, Monroe became interim president until Roger Voskuyl took over in 1950. During its first decade, Westmont had two presidents, one interim president and an executive committee at its helm.

Monroe had welcomed his 1950 Easter break to get away from turmoil on campus between Forrester and the board. “Following our vacation rule, Westmont College was never mentioned in any way,” he later recalled. “No one knew where we were. Easter morning, when I arrived in a La Verne church to preach, several letters were waiting for me. They told me three things: Dr. Forrester had resigned, I was interim president, and I was to attend a meeting of the board the next day.

“The campus picture was very serious indeed,” Monroe said. A total of 16 faculty and staff left with Forrester, and finances continued to be precarious. The Monroes started traveling to reassure constituents concerned about the crisis. “I tried to get hold of the Westmont financial picture and reassess it in terms of survival,” Monroe said. His goals of stabilizing the college and living within a reasonable budget were finally realized under Voskuyl.

Academic Dean Frank Hieronymus served as interim president when Roger Voskuyl resigned in 1968. A Westmont alumnus, he had been a student during the interim administrations of McCreery and the executive committee and had joined the history faculty during Monroe’s interim tenure in 1950.

Only once has a Westmont president immediately followed his predecessor: In 2001 Stan Gaede succeeded David Winter, who retired after 25 years. Today, Chancellor Winter continues the tradition of dedicated administrators who have wisely and faithfully guided the college as trustees seek a new president.

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