by gayle d. beebe, ph.d. president
Spring is in the air. Despite the damage caused by the fire, the raw beauty of the campus is springing back to life. The buds on the trees and flowers, the birds chirping by day and the frogs croaking at night are reassuring signs that life is returning to normal.
We continue to make great progress on many fronts. Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics is a massive hole of rebar and concrete as this impressive building begins to take shape. The delicate excavation between Voskuyl Library and Whittier Science Building continues as the Adams Center for the Visual Arts is underway. Of course, all this new construction is occurring while we rebuild from the fire. Work will soon begin on the faculty homes in Las Barrancas and the three buildings in Clark Halls.
As you have often heard, we’re working under a significant time pressure for completing our new buildings. We received the first permit Nov. 12, 2008, and started the clock on the county-mandated 18-month period for pulling all permits. To get permits for Phase I construction, we must have raised all the money in gifts and pledges for the facilities. We’ll keep you posted on our progress as we move closer to May 11, 2010, when the window of opportunity for completing all Phase I projects closes.
These buildings are important, but they are only tools. Their ultimate importance lies in the contribution they make to enhancing the educational experience of our students and the environment in which our faculty accomplish their teaching and research.
As we look to the future, we recognize other pressing realities that face us. A global financial crisis, stock market meltdown and growing unemployment present new challenges to all colleges.
Throughout our history — and recently during the Tea Fire — we have witnessed God’s faithfulness to Westmont and his ongoing provision. We’re thankful that we put our trust in God and not in Wall Street. Knowing that many families are struggling financially, we decided not to increase tuition for the 2009-2010 academic year. That means we have to cut our budget, so we’ve instituted a freeze on salaries and hiring, although we’ll fill a few crucial positions such as the chief academic officer. We’re also deferring some capital improvement projects. In many ways, we’re well situated to weather this economic storm.
Our fourth annual President’s Breakfast featured a timely theme: the need for effective, global leadership. Biographer Walter Isaacson discussed how Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and others overcame seemingly insurmountable difficulties to make great contributions because they combined creativity and moral will. That message resonated well with us at Westmont.
We believe leaders need to possess more than just competence and intelligence. We’re convinced they must develop character and a commitment to morality and integrity. So many of the problems we face in the financial world today stem from a simple loss of any moral compass and the unbounded desire to pursue personal gain regardless of the loss to building economically sound companies with durable business practices.
That’s why our focus at Westmont is on educating the whole person. Not only do we provide a rigorous education that teaches students how to think critically, make informed judgments and communicate effectively but we encourage them to grow personally and spiritually as well. Our economics and business students study ethics as well as macroeconomics. Our biology majors consider the moral ramifications of rapidly developing technologies while our communication studies students learn the appropriate use of rhetoric and its power to heal or conceal, to elevate us or to destroy us. Our Christian faith informs our values across the curriculum and helps our students develop a world view based on something more than self-interest. We desperately need people of character, integrity and competence willing to seek and to serve the common good.
Our unique approach to education helps us produce young men and women with these qualities. The liberal arts curriculum provides a broad exposure to the world and still allows students to focus in on a core discipline. The commitment by our faculty and staff to the Christian faith infuses everything we do and adds an important moral dimension to our program. The residential community creates extensive learning experiences outside the classroom in the residence halls and throughout a variety of activities on campus. Our primary focus on undergraduates provides students the unusual opportunity to do research with professors and pursue challenging independent study projects. Finally, we want our graduates to be prepared for a global society where they can move, live and work comfortably and effectively in a variety of cultures, so we encourage them to engage in cross-cultural experiences and study programs.
The students and faculty continue to impress and inspire me, and the many alums I meet on the road are a sheer joy. Thank you for your love of Westmont and your loyalty and commitment to our mission.