Presidential Briefing November 2018

Gayle D. Beebe, Ph.D.

Gayle D. Beebe became Westmont’s eighth president in 2007 after serving as president of Spring Arbor University in Michigan for seven years. His inauguration in 2008 featured speeches by Steve Forbes, chief executive officer of Forbes, and Steve Sample, former president of the University of Southern California.

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Westmont Adds Four-Year Engineering Major

It gives me great delight to announce that Westmont will offer a Bachelor of Science in Engineering with a concentration in mechanical engineering beginning in fall 2019, blending a mix of courses in engineering, physics, mathematics and chemistry and grounding the program in the college’s liberal arts tradition. The new major continues our tradition of cultivating innovation, collaboration, problem-solving and moral discernment in graduates.

Through the ages, the greatest minds have possessed the unusual capacity to make connections across every discipline and in every sphere of life and thought—in the arts and sciences, in the humanities, in technology and industry, and in the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning. We seek to make this remarkable capacity—the genius to find innovative solutions to enduring problems—a hallmark of our engineers.

The launch of the new program coincides with our capital campaign to raise $250 million for new academic programs, student scholarships and long-term financial stability through endowment growth.

“As educators and leaders in our world consider local and global challenges, more of the solutions and strategies require insights from engineers, especially when addressing social mobility, caring for the environment, reducing poverty and promoting human welfare,” says Provost Mark Sargent. “Blending voices from engineers in discussions with economists, theologians, ethicists, historians, sociologists and other experts in the arts and sciences can enrich the ability of a Christian liberal arts community to cultivate justice, pursue peace and foster human flourishing.”

Engineering continues to be one of the most rapidly growing majors in the country, with demand in the job market for engineers soaring. With many industries employing mechanical engineers in Santa Barbara County, our engineering students will find a rich source of internships during college and jobs when they graduate.

Westmont consistently ranks as one of the country’s premier liberal arts colleges according to U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and Princeton Review. Innovation helps us stay competitive and offer students a demanding yet personal academic experience.


Westmont Offers Music, Film, Writing Programs

Westmont continues to innovate and respond to students’ interests by adding new programs and more choices that fit well with the liberal arts and prepare graduates for a variety of careers. Music students focused on performing can earn a Bachelor of Music once the National Association of Schools of Music approves the program. Two new minors, film studies and writing, will allow students to expand their studies and develop the digital, visual and communication skills required in the workplace.

The new minor in writing, effective as of fall 2018, will appeal to a wide variety of students who desire to supplement their major by cultivating writing skills. The 20-unit program requires work in language study and advanced composition and grammar with electives drawn from art, communication studies, English, history and theatre arts. Practica include work on the Horizon, the student newspaper, the Phoenix, the student literary, art, and music publication, or an internship. Students may also receive credit for undertaking a Major Honors writing project in their field.

The music degree builds upon six years of significant improvements in the curriculum, including new programs in music education and worship leadership.

The substantial requirements for the major (80 credits) include units from a variety of disciplines—modern languages, theater, kinesiology, physics and mathematics—to help musicians develop as well-rounded artists and people.

The film studies minor, beginning in fall 2019, will appeal to students interested in creating film as well as those who seek to study it. Students will explore and analyze films made around the world and will consider how the medium provides a lens into other cultures and experiences. They will also work collaboratively on concepts, storyboarding, storytelling, pre- and post-production, and public presentation of their work. A variety of departments, including theater arts, communication studies, English, religious studies, and political science, will offer courses.

Women’s Swim Coach Dives In

Jill Jones Lin will serve as head coach of our first women’s swimming team in fall.

“Jill has a strong pedigree in both swimming and Christian leadership,” says Dave Odell, Westmont athletic director. “Her energy and enthusiasm is palpable. She also has a strong understanding of athletics as part of the liberal arts experience, and places emphasis on the priority of being a student.”

Jill brings 19 years of experience as a year-round competitive swimmer at the high school, club and collegiate level. An alumna of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, she competed as an NCAA Division I swimmer and served two years as team captain. For the past two years, she has served as a senior assistant swim coach at both Orinda Aquatics in Moraga and Springbrook Swim Club in Lafayette.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join the Westmont team and work alongside the other incredible coaches and faculty,” Jill said. “The Santa Barbara community is incredibly welcoming, and Westmont is no different. I love that I get to combine two of my passions, swimming and mentoring student-athletes as they prepare for life after college. The Westmont athletic community is very competitive in the NAIA, and the Westmont student-athletes that I have encountered are motivated and driven to be the best in their conference.”

Jill has begun recruiting athletes for next year’s team and interest is strong. Prospective student-athletes can find more information at

Westmont Names New Golf Coach

Tom Knecht, Westmont professor of political science, is the inaugural coach of the college’s men’s and women’s golf teams, which begin competing in fall 2019.

“Coach Knecht is a valued member of the Westmont community and a beloved professor,” said Dave Odell, Westmont’s athletic director. “He is also a huge supporter of Westmont athletics and quite a golfer.”

“Starting new athletic programs is never easy,” Knecht said. “But I can’t imagine stepping into a better situation. We have an amazing college and perfect weather—and we’ll play on some of the best courses in the country.”

Knecht earned his doctorate at UC Santa Barbara, and he has taught courses in American government, international politics and research methods at Westmont for the past decade. His current research examines the politics of sports. He will continue to teach at Westmont while coaching. Knecht graduated from Stanford University, where he belonged to the Cardinal football team.

Homecoming Lauds Outstanding Alums

At a wonderful Homecoming event in October, we honored Howard Kootstra ’76, CEO and founder of Golden Empire Mortgage, and Shauna Niequist ’98, New York Times best-selling author, as Alumnus and Alumna of the Year. Dave Dettoni ’88, director of operations for Sudan Relief Fund, received the Global Service Award, and Alana Woodin ’10, educator at Orange Cove High School, has earned the Young Alumni Award.

Shauna Niequist, author of “Cold Tangerines,” “Bittersweet,” “Bread & Wine, Savor,” and “Present Over Perfect,” was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in a special program about “Faith and Perfectionism.” She graduated from Westmont 20 years ago, studying English and French literature.

Shauna spoke in chapel October 12 about the three greatest things Westmont gave her: friends, vocation and a deeper faith. Westmont gave Niequist a vision for her vocation as a writer. “Westmont taught me what books, language and storytelling can do,” she says. “When I left Westmont, I had within me a deep desire to be a part of that conversation. I knew that words were going to be my greatest tools, and I knew that I would do anything. God used books in my life in extraordinary ways. I so badly wanted to possibly someday have that kind of effect in another person’s life.”

Howard, who has worked in the lending industry for more than 35 years, serves on the Westmont Board of Advisers and is a member of our Wallace Emerson Society. Deeply rooted in his faith, Howard has built and grown an incredibly successful, values-driven company.

Dave Dettoni served in Germany with Transatlantische Stiftung für Afrika (TSA), promoting trans-Atlantic relations between the U.S., Germany and Africa. He was director of operations and outreach at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal commission created by Congress to advise the president and Congress on policies to promote international religious freedom.

Alana Woodin taught in Torreon, Mexico, where she earned the Teacher of the Year award, specializing in world and U.S. history, advising the Model United Nations group, and coordinating the student council. She now teaches in a rural Central California community and has won the Orange Cove Educator of the Year award.

Fall Sports

Women’s volleyball (No. 15, 25-5) continues its quest for a National Championship in 2018 in Sioux City, Iowa. The Warriors won their first two games in pool play and will advance to the 16-team championship tournament. Beginning Friday, November 30, the Warriors need to win four games in two days to capture their first National Championship.  Senior Samantha Neely, the 2018 Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Volleyball Player of the Year, leads the team. Senior setter Amy Buffham and junior Cassidy Rea join her on the All-GSAC Team. Ruth McGolpin was honored as the GSAC Assistant Coach of the Year.

Michael Oldach
Blake Fonda 
Jason Peterson 

Junior Michael Oldach team earned All-American honors this month, finishing eighth at the NAIA National Cross Country Championships, the best individual performance by a Westmont runner since 1968. The team placed 27th out of 36 schools. At the GSAC Championships, Oldach successfully defended his title and fellow Warrior Blake Fonda finished second. The Warriors missed out on a team championship by six points. Oldach, Fonda and Jason Peterson earned All-GSAC honors.

Casey Jensen 
Bethany Bodine 
Grace Hanna 

Women’s cross country finished second in the 5,000 meter race at the GSAC Cross Country Championships this fall. Four of Westmont’s runners claimed All-GSAC honors: Casey Jenson, Bethany Bodine, Grace Hanna and Dominique Delgado.

Women’s soccer (13-2-3) dropped the championship game of the GSAC Tournament. Despite being ranked No. 12 in the final regular season NAIA Coaches Poll, they failed to receive an at-large bid to the National Tournament. Goalkeeper Gabi Haw was honored as the GSAC Women’s Soccer Co-Player of the Year. She allowed just 16 goals in the Warriors’ 18 games with 60 saves and seven shutouts. Other Warriors on the All-GSAC Team include senior Hailey Parker, juniors Maddi Berthoud and Kira Nemeth, and first-year student Teagan Matye.

Men’s soccer finished 10-6-2, and their season ended in the GSAC Tournament semifinals. Senior captain Tim Heiduk and juniors Lalo Delgado and Lucky Puengrod were named to the All-GSAC Team.

Pam and I enjoyed a blessed Thanksgiving together with our children and are so grateful for our extended Westmont family. We’re joyfully anticipating the advent season and hope we see you at the annual Christmas festival.


Gayle D. Beebe