President Gayle D. Beebe and the board of trustees dedicated Westmont’s newest facilities May 6 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the observatory, Thorrington Field, Russell Carr Field and the Westmont Track.
Randy Jones, director of campus planning, recalled the lengthy process of updating the college’s master plan. “These dedications are the first step in a bigger plan and have laid the foundation for completing the campus,” he said.
Physics Professor Michael Sommermann hailed the observatory as a new landmark on campus and a symbol of the integral place of the natural sciences at Westmont. “The facility will provide education for all students and enrich the liberal arts curriculum, offer training for physics and engineering majors, and bring enjoyment to the people of Montecito and Santa Barbara,” he said.
Ken Radtkey from Blackbird Architects is glad the observatory deck is being used around the clock, with students watching athletic contests — and people — during the day and viewing the stars at night. “The inspiration for this project came from trying to understand and be focused on the heavens,” he said.
Russell Smelley later added that the deck has become a popular location for student sunbathers. He described the track and field as the most beautiful classroom in the world. “I have never seen a finer facility in the United States in my 30 years of coaching,” he said. Smelley coaches track and field and cross country.
Joe Healy from Melchiori/Matt Construction recalled the challenges of aligning the Keck Telescope to true north and of calculating the elevation of the track. All the dirt from construction sites around campus ended up on the track and Thorrington Field, and their exact height was only determined when the last load was delivered.
Dave Wolf, head coach of the men’s soccer team, expressed his hope and prayer that Westmont will be a good steward of these gracious gifts. He can’t wait for the soccer teams to play on Thorrington Field, which will be used just for soccer and field events. Russell Carr Field was rededicated as the home of the baseball team.