Westmont Mourns David Winter

David WinterClick here to view David Winter’s memorial service.

David K. Winter, Westmont’s longest-serving president to date, died Saturday, August 15, at the age of 84. He was born Sept. 15, 1930.

Winter served as president of Westmont from 1976-2001 and returned as interim president and chancellor in 2006-07. Under his leadership, Westmont became a nationally ranked liberal arts college. He helped strengthen the quality of the faculty and students, facilities on campus, student life and outreach programs, the endowment, and off-campus study opportunities.

“Westmont continues to benefit from Dave’s contribution during his long and distinguished service,” says President Gayle D. Beebe. “The college and our local community are fundamentally different and better because of his vision and the work he accomplished. The Kingdom of God is also richer and better for the many ways Westmont graduates serve throughout the world.”Winter, Dave mid-tenure 300J

Winter articulated a compelling case for liberal arts education, which develops essential skills such as communication and critical thinking. He described it as the best possible preparation for leadership careers. A man of deep and sincere faith, he enhanced spiritual life programs and opportunities for student ministry. Actively involved in national higher education organizations and accrediting agencies, he championed faith-based institutions. He promoted student life programs and sought to create a strong campus community for students to help educate the whole person. In 1986, Bowling Green State University released a study of higher education officials and scholars that named Winter as one of the 100 most effective college leaders in the United States.

Winter served in the U.S. Navy for four years as an air intelligence officer and earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from UCLA and a doctorate in anthropology and sociology from Michigan State University (MSU). Under a Ford Foundation grant, he conducted anthropological field work in Lahore, Pakistan, for 18 months. He taught at Wheaton College in Illinois, Calvin College in Michigan, and earned tenure as a professor at MSU. In 1970, he became the academic vice president at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, rising to executive vice president in three years. In July 1976 he returned to his native Southern California to serve as president of Westmont, succeeding Lyle C. Hillegas (1972-75).

Three days after he arrived at Westmont, President Winter spoke before the county planning commission, which approved Westmont’s request to increase enrollment to 1,200 students. The board of supervisors later upheld this decision. Winter went door to door to meet the college’s neighbors and hear their concerns. After the devastating Sycamore Fire in 1977, he encouraged 500 students to volunteer to help local residents who lost their homes in the blaze. Winter continued reaching out to the neighborhood and the community, strengthening relationships. He led efforts to gain permission to average enrollment at 1,200 and to build 41 homes in Las Barrancas for faculty families. He also started the work of updating the college’s approved master plan.

In 1998, Winter suddenly lost 80 percent of his eyesight due to restricted blood flow to the optic nerves. He quickly adapted to this condition and continued to lead the college, relying on his excellent memory when speaking and leading meetings. He retired in 2001 but returned for a year in 2006 while the college sought to replace Stan Gaede, Winter’s successor who had stepped down to resume the life of a scholar. Gayle D. Beebe became Westmont’s eighth president in July 2007.

David Winter with President Gayle D. Beebe and former president Stan Gaede at Beebe’s inauguration in 2008

David Winter with President Gayle D. Beebe and former president Stan Gaede at Beebe’s inauguration in 2008

After his second retirement, Winter served as headmaster of Providence, a college-preparatory Christian high school in Santa Barbara, from 2008-2011. Winter served on numerous boards, including Cottage Health System, the United Way Campaign, the Mosher Foundation, Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, Montecito Association, Montecito Rotary Club, Santa Barbara Industry Education Council, Cottage Hospital, Oaks Christian High School, Providence High School, Independent Colleges of Southern California, Christian College Coalition, Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, Braille Institute, Young Life, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, Habitat for Humanity, Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Council on Higher Education in Washington, D.C.

David and Helene Winter

David and Helene Winter

A longtime community volunteer, he received the Santa Barbara News-Press Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. The Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse named him one of their Twelve Men of Distinction. In 1999, the John Templeton Foundation selected Winter as one of 50 college presidents who have exercised leadership in character development. In 2013, he earned the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ Visionary Award.

On May 5, 2011, President Gayle D. Beebe honored Winter and former president Stan Gaede at the dedication of David K. Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics. A bronze statue outside the building depicts Winter walking with wife, Helene. For the past 14 years, 10 Westmont students receive the David K. Winter Character Through Servant Leadership Award for exemplary leadership through service at the college and in the community. The building and award pay tribute to Winter’s commitment to the liberal arts, his strong faith and his servant’s heart.

David is survived by his wife, Helene, and his three children, Laura Winter, Bruce Winter, and Frankie Winter and her two sons, and Helene’s children, Steve Kamm and his four children, Jeremy Kamm and his two children, and Stacey Smith and her two children.

For more information, read the extensive coverage in the Westmont magazine when he retired in 2001, including many tributes.


  1. Michael Austin says

    My favorite Dr. Winter memory will seem like a trivial one, but showed a side of the man we didn’t see too often. It was early in my 4 years so probably ’86 or ’87. There was a breath holding competition during a Homecoming picnic. Students had been competing by sticking their heads in a large water filled aquarium. The winner had a time of around 2 and a half minutes. Dr. Winter walked up and challenged the winner, rolled up his sleeves and buried his head in the water. One minute passes, then two, and not until well past three minutes did he rise out of the water, took a deep breath and triumphantly threw his arms in the air. It was awesome. He did many things for me personally and led Westmont through an amazing era. Yet I will always remember that day on the lawn when he buried the young studs in a great show of lung capacity and competitive zeal.

  2. Brian Novy says

    My first day at Westmont, Dr. Winter gave a Chapel Talk, during which he extended a personal invitation for every student to visit his office. Later that day, I happened to pass by his office door and saw him sitting at his desk. He invited me in, and we talked until Helene came to pick him up. From that day on, he and Helene always knew my name. I know he knew many other students as well.

    Dr. Winter was an amazing role model for everyone at Westmont, and beyond. During his last Chapel Talk my senior year, he gave us words of advice that I still say to myself during trying times. They remind me often of a man who was inspirational, wise, and loving.

  3. Carolyn Ritchie says

    😢 I was in the Class of 1979 when I first came to Westmont. I had the highest respect for Dr. Winter and all he did for Westmont. His true character showed when he lost his eyesight. I grieve for his family at his loss but also rejoice that he is now with his Lord and fully sees his world around him.

  4. Lilian Lawrence Charapich '02 says

    Dr. Winter and Helene were 2 of 3 people at Westmont that were monumental in getting me there and keeping me there til graduation. Prof. Wennberg was the 3rd. I cant express enough gratitude for all of their continous encouragement during my time there ’98-02. When my advisor went on sabatical it was Dr Winter who offered to advise me on my course track. Whenever I hear “Be thou my vision” I immediately think of the chapel where Dr Winter told the student body about his blindness. He was such an inspiration. You will be missed.

  5. Tami Wrye Kozinski says

    Dr. Winter was a gentleman, one of the truly few gentlemen I’ve met. He was courageous, kind, affectionate, and yet stood by his convictions even if it meant losing a friend–but he stood by those convictions with genuine sorrow for the loss, and he wasn’t afraid to show this. My favorite memory of him is when I graduated in ’91: I was, being a “W” one of the last to walk across the stage, and in those years I was very introverted socially, and going through some tumultuous times. Dr. Winter seemed to know this and gave me a big hug as I walked across the stage. I have never forgotten that, nor his example of courage when I visited him and Mrs. Winter after his first retirement: his eyesight was going and he was excited about his new computer program, allowing him to read. All these things showed me, in real and practical terms, what was in his heart.

  6. Jay Kenton says

    David and Helene hold to this day a deep and special place in my heart that is hard to fully articulate. He was one of the strongest examples of selfless service that I have experienced in my life and he was the kind of leader that you want to emulate, not because of a soaring oratory that he gave on some occasion (though he could make a fine speech), but simply because of the kind of person he was.
    Upon learning of his blindness my freshman year (’98) and already being deeply impressed by the outgoing example that he was, I was inspired to write my first ever a cappella arrangement, of Be Thou My Vision, in his honor. Some friends of mine and I practiced it and secretly arranged with Helene to come and surprise him with one day at their home. Surprise him we did, as us six freshmen arrived unannounced at his doorstep. The first thing he did once we finished was ask us if we would sing it again. Just to have something modest we had put together touch a man who impacted our lives so much was an honor, to say the least.
    As a testament to his sharp memory and the gift of personal touch he had with people, he recalled that very day with fond memories in the middle of my commencement address four years later and it was hard to determine who had been more touched by the occasion – him or I.
    Thank you, David, for the true example you have left in your wake. We are all the better for it and look forward to seeing you – 20/20 – before long.

  7. The doors of Heaven swing wide yesterday as Dave met Jesus. I literally owe my entire career over the past almost forty years to this dear man. He hired me in 1982 at Westmont and after a ‘very brief’ (one month) retirement, he again hired me at Providence. How very blessed I have been to not only work alongside this gentle giant of a man, but to be considered a friend as well. I had the pleasure of watching Dave and Helene’s beautiful relationship begin and have ever since been so inspired by both of them. My heart is sad to know that we will not again hear Dave’s profound and always sweet words covering a multitude of subjects. I have learned a great deal working with Dave and being a friend. While I was walking through my husband’s illness and subsequent passing 18 months ago, it was Dave and Helene who constantly cared for us and then me. …even as recently as a few days ago. Words can’t express how much we will ALL miss Dave Winter! A GIANT of a man. I will walk alongside Helene as much as I am allowed – I get it! I love you! Joyce

  8. Suzanne Hogren says

    I first heard the concept “Critical Thinking” from a talk given by Dr. Winter when I was a new transfer student in 1983. He spoke eloquently of how a liberal arts education shapes us in ways that will bear fruit for a lifetime. This has been true for me as a student, educator, citizen. How profound was his leadership and how kind was his heart. A life well-lived.

  9. Norm Nelson says

    I’m so sad, and yet so grateful, that this great Christian educator, is with the Lord who endowed him with such wonderful gifts! I did not know Dr. Winter as I knew Dr. Voskuyl who led Westmont during my years as a student. But I followed the college’s progress during his years at the helm, and it was evident that Westmont’s stature and institutional confidence grew tremendously under his leadership. I am also fascinated by the educational vision that he demonstrated in the creation of Providence High School. It is really unusual for a college president to invest himself in secondary education as Dr. Winter did, but it shows how important Christian education was to him — at all levels. How blessed we have been to have David Winter lead our college to a place of greatness among Christian colleges. Thank you, David Winter!

  10. Stephanie Stidham Rogers says

    I have a funny memory that shows just how young and engaging President Winter and his wife Helene could be with students. When my friends set me up with a date for the night on campus when all the students do this ‘favor’ for each other, I asked them for someone “intelligent” and “interesting.” When I arrived at the meeting spot, it was President Winter! This was honestly one of the best jokes that anyone has ever played on me. We walked up to the house, where I enjoyed hors d’ouvres and lots of enlightened, intelligent conversation with President Winter and Helene. I also remember hearing about their favorite charities and community service projects, some of which were abroad. What an engaging person — he will surely be missed by all.

  11. Omulo Amoke says

    We have lost a man of extra ordinary character, intergrity and of course a great man of faith. “My door is wide open, please stop by anytime” was his first words to me. He meant it and I took a total advantage of his wisdom, grace and humility to learn. As a foreign student from Africa, he was one of the very few who made me feel welcomed. Genuine and sincere!! Thank you Dr. Winter for leaving such an impact in my life.

  12. Last year, Westmont’s class of 1989 observed it’s 25th college reunion anniversary and were honored to have Dr. Winter and Helene attend and address our gathered class. What a treat it was to hear Dr. Winter’s wise and godly council regarding God’s faithfulness, particularly dealing with his full loss of sight and the recent diagnosis of cancer. That night last October, Dr. Winter reminded us through words and a life well lived that trusting God no matter what we face in life is the only way to find real peace and joy in this world. It is often in the attention to small things that we find stellar character and integrity. After his incredible remarks and a time of worship for the class of 1989, we closed our formal dinner with a reminder that the snacks from the our gathering the night before we still unpaid for and if everyone could share a couple of dollars each then we could repay the individual who bought the snacks for our class. As I left the podium, Dr. Winter’s wife Helene asked Dr. Winter for some money and took a $20 bill from his wallet and give it to me to help with the snacks. Of course, I insisted that she and Dr. Winter keep their money as we were more than able to cover the expenses and that they were our honored guests. However, they insisted that I take the gift to help cover the expenses and refused to take it back. I shall never forget the important life lessons that Dr. Winter shared with the class of 1989 last October 2104, and I’ll also never forget the kind and generous “small” illustration and lesson he and Helene taught me about being a giving and kind person. God speed Dr. Winter, I’m sure old friends (like John Watts) and family were there to greet you at your heavenly arrival, but far surpassing them all was the moment you first laid eyes on the Savior you loved and lived for during your earthly journey. The old hymn likens death to flying away to God’s celestial shore, I believe last Saturday morning, you had one amazing flight home!

  13. Alvin O. "Bud" Austin says

    My years at Westmont preceded Dave’s tenure there but as I progressed in my career in Christian higher education, ultimately to serve as president of a Christian university, Dave provided insight and encouragement at several critical steps along the way. And, maybe most importantly, he was a consummate role model and spokesman for the cause of Christ-centered higher education. His legacy will live on.

  14. Denise L. Jackson says

    While I have many memories of David Winter, the most profound is from my graduation day in 1978. Who remembers this stuff, right? He said, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” Not being a particulary academic student and having completed my work at Westmont and heading off to graduate school, those words resonated with me. They continue to speak to me over all these years as I encounter challenges spiritually, personally and professionally. Dr. Winter’s love for, labor on behalf of and legacy to Westmont are woven into the very fibers of the college. Great indeed is God’s faithfulness to Westmont as demonstrated by the gift of His servant David!

  15. Patty Watts says

    I clearly remember in 1983 when David made a trip to Colorado Springs to officially invite my husband, John Watts, to come to Westmont to direct the Planned Giving Program. And for the next 13 years, as Assistant to the President, John had the privilege to work alongside David helping people who wanted to remember Westmont in their estate planning. David was such a kind and gracious man and had such a listening ear whenever he accompanied John to visit a donor. In recent years John and David were two of six or seven men who met weekly and called themselves the “Lunch Bunch.” Those men all appreciated David’s wonderful participation with them as they shared their lives together. John went to be with the Lord seven months ago and David graciously shared at the memorial service even making reference to the fact that he knew his days on earth were numbered. I can imagine the joy in heaven when John welcomed David with open arms. Thank you David for a life well lived.

    • I loved the thought of John and Dr. Winter being reunited as old friends made new! Thanks for sharing Patty.

    • Tory Walker says

      Thank you for sharing this Patty. When I saw David get up to share at John’s memorial service, I was doubly blessed: the iron sharpening iron that took place through those men meeting was clearly evident that day, and it has become a vital inspiration for me to run the race to the end. I was especially blessed with what John had shared with me the last time we spoke, which David also shared at the service: the word of God does not change with shifting sands of culture, and we need to stand firmly on the solid ground on which our faith stands. Acts 20:24

  16. Tom Patag, Jr. says

    It was Sunday morning, November 4, 1979, Dr. Winter was speaking at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena. His text was Zechariah 4:6 “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” For a man of his intellect and stature, his complete reliance upon God to provide the increase had a profound impact in my heart. A decade and three years later my eldest daughter graduated at Westmont, her younger sister following in 1994.

    Our loss is heaven’s gain! Praise God for Dr. David Winter!

  17. Paul Wilkes says

    Going way back: Dr. Winter was 13 years old when he was a member of our quartet at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena. He was the youngest member but never missed a practice. Kind of funny now, but we referred to each other as Dr. and David was the only one of us that ever attained that degree although all four of us completed four years or more of college. He is the first of our quartet to attain a home in Heaven but the rest of us will see him soon and join him in the 100,000,000 voice choir in Heaven. There will be no need for a quartet there.

  18. Jeff Emery says

    My Westmont years were a tremendous time the faith building, to the degree that I quit planning a ride and began to enjoy seeing how God would provide a way ‘home’ from the airport to school after vacations home for the holidays.
    On one such occasion I was blessed to sit next to Dr. winter on the plane ride into Santa Barbara’s airport. He asked me how I was getting home and I said I didn’t yet know. Well as you may easily guess, he chose to be the Lord’s provision for me that day. He was a man the practiced what he preached, an unparalleled Christ-like leader. I’m more than confident he was welcomed into Christ’s arms with the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant, welcome into your rest.”
    He was a man worth following and I am eternally grateful to have been touched, molded and transformed by his life through my years at Westmont. Thank you Lord!


  1. […] Westmont Mourns David Winter […]

  2. […] or turned inwards, he instead continued to minister through his position at Westmont College (click here for a link to their post about him) and later Providence High School (link to their post here). He […]

  3. […] See more stories about David Winter on the Westmont website. […]

  4. […] He was named one of the top 100 most-effective college leaders in the country by Bowling Green State University in 1986, according to a Westmont statement: […]