The first national Thanksgiving Day in North America was proclaimed by Henry Laurens, the fourth president of the United States. Buoyed by the British surrender at Saratoga in October of 1777, Laurens declared a day of "Thanksgiving and Praise," free from labor and full of penitence. "Recreation," though at "other times innocent," was to be avoided on "so solemn an occasion."

During the Revolutionary War, many of those who succeeded Laurens as the president of the Continental Congress of the United States followed suit. They thanked the "Great Benefactor" for sending the French to the rescue, and foretold of "seminaries and schools." Soon after the nation ratified its constitution, George Washington set aside a day to give thanks, to fast, and to pray for the "encrease of science." By 1814 James Madison used Thanksgiving to extol the "progress of the arts."

All this makes Thanksgiving sound like a good day to celebrate the liberal arts. It's always been my favorite holiday, partly because recreation is back in the picture (and fasting is not). Admittedly, our modern Thanksgiving can be dominated by football and feasts, and presidential proclamations usually overdo the political chauvism. But after sampling two centuries of Thanksgiving declarations and addresses, I am not sure there is an American day—civil or ecclesiastical—where human liberty, religious freedom and just relations have been so strongly linked with the cultivation of learning. Or a civic tradition that so consistently evokes the disciplines of our faith—prayer, forgiveness, humility, gratitude and service.

This report comes with appreciation for the scholarly energy of our colleagues and gratitude for the good work still before us. I hope your long holiday weekend is restful and reinvigorating.

Mark Sargent

Updates

Kim Kihlstrom

KIM KIHLSTROM SCHOLARSHIP AND AWARD

In honor of Professor Kim Kihlstrom’s service on the faculty since 1999, Westmont has established the Kim Kihlstrom Scholarship for Women in the Sciences. The financial award will be granted to two incoming female students who have chosen to major in one of the departments of the Natural and Behavioral Sciences. In addition, the Mathematics and Computer Science Department has chosen to name one of its top honors the Kim P. Kihlstrom Award. It will be given to a graduating senior from the Computer Science program who has done outstanding coursework and research and who has contributed to the department's community of learners. "Kim has had an unwavering commitment to helping students succeed in computer science," Patti Hunter declares. "They have always been able to count on her patience and encouragement, and her willingness to think about the most effective ways to engage them with the curriculum." At Kim's recent retirement reception, Wayne Iba noted that an argument could be made that the first computer science programmer was a woman, Ada Lovelace. "Kim's encouragement for all women in the sciences is well known," Wayne remarks. "I'm sure that Kim feels honored and gratified by any support for women in the sciences given in her name."

London Underground

VISION FOR OUR GRADUATES

On a trip to London during last November I remember coming up from the Underground right near the decorative iron railings around St. Paul's Cathedral. Only after a few steps back did I catch sight of Christopher Wren's magnificent dome.

We are currently pursuing several tracks in the academic program—our next strategic map, our WASC report, and our ongoing protocols for program review. Much of the work is brisk, procedural, and inconspicuous, like a subway route. But some of it requires us to take a step back, look up, and survey the grand scene.

Here's one overarching view. In 1996, as part of the Long Range Plan, Westmont developed a statement addressing the question “What Do We Want For Our Graduates?” As I joined Westmont in the spring of 2012, the faculty requested that I oversee a revision of that statement. After a year of soaking up the Westmont culture, I am ready to launch that revision. The new statement will serve as a foundation for our program review efforts. If we do our work well, the statement can also nourish the strategic planning and the WASC reaccreditation processes. Faculty and staff are welcome to review the current statement, and offer advice about any ideas or phrases that should be revised or dropped. You can also “mind the gap”: let me know what ideas you think are missing from the statement. I will be sharing drafts with key committees and working toward a mid-spring vote by the faculty. Please send your comments to Barb Kennedy in the next several weeks.

David Marten

DAVID MARTEN

After 31 years at Westmont, David Marten will be retiring in May. He will be missed for many things, not the least of which is his quick wit. "David's sense of humor is so dry," Michael Everest quips, "that we haven't had to buy magnesium sulfate in years . . . We had to put a sticker on his office door saying 'hygroscopic.''" "On a more serious note," Michael continues, "Dave has a gentle spirit and a sharp wit. He has the rare ability to be able to say just enough at the perfect time and no more. I am honored to have had the privilege of serving alongside him. Students love him."

Two of those students are Niva Tro and Kristi Lazar Cantrell. Niva writes: "Dave came to Westmont at a time when we barely had a Chemistry Department. He and Allan built the department with sweat equity. Dave laid a strong foundation of research with undergraduates, high academic standards, and rigorous laboratory work. I was in Dave's very first organic chemistry class in 1983, when we had about 10 students and met in the Quanset hut. Compare that to where we are today. We have Dave to thank for that." Kristi adds: "I remember my first advising appointment with Dave when I enrolled at Westmont 17 years ago. I could never have anticipated the indelible role Dave would play in my journey to graduate school and beyond. He is an incredible mentor and friend." [continue reading]

Map of Asia

ASIA INITIATIVE

Cynthia Toms, director of global education, has launched the development of new study-abroad opportunities in Asia. Over the course of this year a task force will be exploring possible locations and will determine program distinctives, delivery model, and pedagogical components. One vital part of the process is to identify key partners in our primary locations—those institutions, scholars, churches, NGOs, business leaders and others who might contribute to students' learning. Ultimately, the task force hopes to complete its work in the coming spring for review by essential committees and the offering of an Asian study opportunity in fall of 2015. Task force members include John Blondell, Alister Chapman, Charlie Farhadian, Bruce Fisk, Jeremy Fletcher, Chandra Mallampalli, Edd Noell, Susan Penksa, Barb Pointer, Helen Rhee, and Jim Wright.