Dedicated to Completing the Campus

This year Westmont dedicated two buildings in two consecutive days for the first time in its history. But earlier construction projects also included multiple facilities. To date, the development of Westmont’s campus has occurred in roughly four phases.

In the first, the college began the transition from a Montecito estate to a proper campus between 1959 and 1965. Completed in 1959, John Page Hall and the Dining Commons added important residential facilities for the growing student body. The next year, Westmont built the Nancy Voskuyl Prayer Chapel in honor of President Roger Voskuyl’s daughter, who died in a car accident. Faculty and students next welcomed Ellen Porter Hall of Fine Arts (1961) with its theater/small lecture hall, classrooms and offices. Two more residence halls allowed additional students to live on campus: Van Kampen Hall (1963) and Deborah Clark Halls (1965).

The dedication ceremony for Deborah Clark Halls Feb. 7, 1966, doubled as the convocation service for the spring semester. Student musicians performed, and faculty, staff and students honored donors Ernest and Gertrude Deborah Clark Gieser.

For a number of years, Westmont had leased the former Deane School for Boys and purchased this property in 1967, permanently adding to campus Deane Hall, Reynolds Hall, Deane Chapel and the former Art Center, the new home of the music department.

Building resumed in 1968 with four major projects. The generous family who donated Porter Hall also gave the funds for William Porter Center (1968) to create offices and health facilities. Two of the largest buildings on campus then took shape: Roger John Voskuyl Library (1968) and Hugh R. Murchison Physical Education Complex (1969). Another residence, Armington Halls (1970), ended this major construction phase.

Everett and Eleanor Armington gave the lead gifts for both the library and the residence hall. Originally, the college planned to name the library after the Armingtons, but shortly before the dedication ceremony, the couple asked that it recognize President Roger Voskuyl instead. Ironically, Voskuyl announced he was ending his 18-year tenure at Westmont a few days later.

Professor Clyde Kilby from Wheaton College spoke at the library dedication Oct. 25, 1968. Students, who had formed lines from Kerrwood to the library to move the books and stock the new shelves, sat in the shade under the magnolia trees on the nearby lawn.

With Murchison Gym finished in time for the first basketball game of the 1968-69 season, the college held a brief dedication ceremony before the Warriors defeated the University of Redlands 75-71 Jan. 4, 1969. Dinner around the new pool followed the formal dedication May 10, 1969.

Speaking at the service for Armington Halls April 25, 1970, President John Snyder said, “It has been one of our major efforts to bring our entire student body into the community residences on campus.” The Armingtons and most of the trustees attended the event, held outdoors among the surrounding oak trees.

The third phase began in 1983 with the transformation of the Dining Commons into Ruth Kerr Memorial Student Center (1983). Emerson Hall arose on Spring Sing Hill in 1984, becoming the residence with the best ocean views. Mericos H. Whittier Science Building (1985) provided expanded laboratories and offices for the biology and chemistry departments. In 1986 renovation turned a Deane School dormitory into the Art Center.

The college had to wait 25 years to build again, enduring a difficult, lengthy process to update its master plan. Finally breaking ground in 2008, Westmont completed the most significant transformation of campus ever in less than two years.

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