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History and Vision of Westmont

Building Westmont's Future Together

Westmont celebrated its 75th anniversary during 2012, a relatively young age in the world of higher education. Since 1937, the college firmly established itself as one of the top 100 liberal arts institutions in the country. During this time, Westmont has earned increasing national recognition for its quality and distinctive mission as an undergraduate, residential, Christian, liberal arts community serving God's kingdom by cultivating thoughtful scholars, grateful servants and faithful leaders for global engagement with the academy, church and world. We invite you to read about Westmont's early leaders and discover how generations of faculty, staff and students have faithfully lived out this vision and carried it into the 21st century.

Mrs. Ruth Kerr provided the seed money and vision for Westmont's founding in 1937. She raised six children while successfully directing Kerr Glass Manufacturing Company, which she inherited when her husband, Alexander died. Her commitment to Christ sand to education for Christian service was unflagging. Without her passionate involvement, it is unlikely Westmont could have survived.

It was Ruth Kerr's vision, warm heart, vast business experience, network of friends, and most of all her prayers and gifts that brought the college into being and sustained it over many years." As Professor Wilt narrates in the video, her early vision of the college that was "thoroughly scholarly, thoroughly evangelical, where Christian young men and women would be prepared for a complex, multi-cultural world." It is the same vision that lives on today at Westmont.


Dr. Wallace Emerson left his position as dean of students at Wheaton College in 1940 to became the first President of Westmont, presiding over Westmont's transformation into a liberal arts college. A man of vision, Dr. Emerson desired to create a college in California that rivaled the finest institutions on the East Coast. His high standards pointed Westmont toward excellence.

Dr. Emerson cared so deeply that he gave sacrificially to the college. He took money from his own small savings to buy chairs for the auditorium. He borrowed on a life insurance policy to meet his own living expenses and he sold his car to pay for faculty salaries.


Dr. Kenneth and Peggy Monroe left more than $3 million through their estate, which funds full-tuition awards for the exceptional Monroe Scholars. Professor Monroe joined the faculty in 1945 and became a beloved professor whose scholarship and teaching reflected the breadth of the liberal arts. He also served as academic dean, a trustee, and twice as interim president.

The first people to make a million-dollar gift to Westmont, Everett and Eleanor Armington contributed significantly to both Voskuyl Library and Armington Halls. They retired to a ranch in Summerland after selling their Ohio-based company, Euclid Machinery to General Motors, and later gave this property to Westmont in exchange for a life-income gift annuity.

These early visionary donors helped Westmont develop a distinctive and world-class program. Centered on the liberal arts and a commitment to Christ, education at Westmont focuses exclusively on undergraduates in a residential setting with a global outlook.

As it did in 1937, Westmont continues to educate the whole person, transforming students for a lifetime of service in a variety of careers worldwide, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and heart to meet the great and pressings needs of our time.

For more history of Westmont and key dates, click here.