Lincoln Scholar to Speak at Commencement

Ronald C. White Jr.

Ronald C. White Jr.

Ronald C. White Jr., author of the New York Times bestseller “A. Lincoln: A Biography,” will speak at Commencement May 4 at 10 a.m. Pastor Rick Warren has canceled his appearance at Westmont following the death of his 27-year-old son.

Edward and Suzanne Birch, leaders in the education community and active volunteers in local organizations, will receive the Westmont Medal. The class of 2013 includes 305 graduates; 106 will receive academic honors. Golden Warriors, who graduated in 1963, will march in the procession and celebrate their 50th reunion.

Commencement is free and open to the public, but no parking is available on campus. Guests must park their cars at Santa Barbara City College and use Westmont’s free shuttle service to campus, arriving at City College no later than 9:30 a.m.

White’s topic, “Abraham Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount,” reflects his work as a Lincoln scholar and author of numerous books about the 16th president. USA Today said, “If you read one book about Lincoln, make it ‘A. Lincoln.’” The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, History Book Club and Barnes & Noble honored this Lincoln biography as a Best Book of 2009. It also won the coveted Christopher Award in 2010, which salutes books “that affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

White’s other works include “Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural,” a New York Times Notable Book, and “The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words,” a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He has lectured at the White House and been interviewed on the PBS News Hour.

White graduated from UCLA and Princeton Seminary and earned a doctorate in religion and history at Princeton University. He is a fellow at the Huntington Library and a visiting professor of history at UCLA. He is writing a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, which Random House will publish.

“Dr. White was my professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, and I’m delighted to welcome him to Westmont,” says President Gayle D. Beebe. “His works on Lincoln make a significant contribution to our understanding of this important president.

“Ed and Sue Birch, our Westmont medal recipients, continue to be significant members of the Westmont community who are also widely involved as local volunteers and leaders,” Beebe says. “We honor their commitment to education, to serving others and to making Santa Barbara a better place for all.”

Edward E. Birch, president and CEO of the Samuel B. and Margaret C. Mosher Foundation and trustee of the Margaret C. Mosher Trust, has distinguished himself during a 35-year career in management. He served as chairman of the board of Pacific Capital Bancorp (2004 to 2010), as executive vice president of Westmont (1993 to 2001), and as vice chancellor of UC Santa Barbara (1976 to 1993), with a stint as vice president, business units, for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He has been a Westmont trustee since 2003. His community service includes board membership with Cottage Health Systems, the Channel City Club, the Community Arts Music Association, the UCSB Foundation, the Statewide Board of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project, and the Advisory Board of Johns Hopkins University. He graduated from the State University of New York, earned a master’s at Ohio University, and completed a doctorate in education at Michigan State University.Commencement Crowd

Suzanne Birch has an extensive background in education, serving as a teacher, head of lower school and counselor at Laguna Blanca School, as a computer instructor for the Santa Barbara County Education Office, as supervisor of student teachers at UC Santa Barbara, and as an educational instructional specialist for IBM. She has devoted time to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Marymount School, the Non-Profit Support Board, Opera Santa Barbara, Laguna Blanca School, All Saints Parish School, the Cancer Center Children’s Group and Westmont. She earned a master’s degree in counseling at Ohio State University after graduating from the State University of New York.

This year’s graduating class includes Tugce Canitez, two-time NAIA Player of the Year and member of the national champion women’s basketball team. Fellow teammates Jillian Wilber, Larissa Hensley and Gracie Boelsems will also graduate.

The parents of Nick Davis, who was killed in a motorcycle crash near campus Jan. 8, will attend Commencement to receive Nick’s diploma.

The Class of 2013 includes four Monroe Scholars, Samantha Gardner of Los Alamitos, Calif.; Daniel Gee of Temple City, Calif.; Kacie Kyne of Ridgway Colo.; and Wesley Zuidema of Ontario, Calif. The Monroe Scholarship honors top students with full-tuition scholarships. Gee also earned the 2013 Faculty Scholarship Award for the highest cumulative GPA.