Westmont Graduation to Honor Students, Mark Departure of Outgoing President

An expected 356 students are expected to walk this Saturday during Westmont College’s graduation ceremonies in an event that will in part serve as a signoff to the school’s most iconic faculty member, Dr. David K. Winter, who is retiring. At the ceremonies on the Russell Carr Athletic Field, the affable chancellor and interim president will welcome president designate Gayle Beebe, who will officially assume the presidency on July 1.

During commencement, Bob Bryant, owner of Bryant & Sons Ltd. Jewelers, will receive the prized Westmont Medal, an award that has been given in the past to Paul and Leslie Ridley-Tree, Larry Crandell, Stewart and Katherine Abercrombie and, most recently, Gerd Jordano.

“I can’t think of anyone who has supported as many non-profit organizations in town as Bob Bryant,” Winter said in a statement.

Of the 356 graduates this year, 170 will be graduating with honors. Three of the students are Monroe Scholars, the school’s highest academic distinction: Julie Lockwood, of San Carlos; Neil Bezdek, of Centennial, Colorado; and Jennifer Murphy, of Eagle River, Arkansas.

This year’s commencement speaker is John Ortberg Jr., the pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church who will present, “What Are you Commencing?” Ortberg’s daughter, Laura, a member of both the National Political Science and National Leadership Honors societies, is among Saturday’s graduates.

In itself, the graduation ceremony will be a sendoff to Dr. Winter, who will become president emeritus after a brilliant career at Westmont that began when he was appointed president in 1976. Dr. Winter served as president until 2001, along the way picking up multiple awards for presidential excellence and numerous honorary doctorates from colleges nationwide. The position of chancellor was created then in his honor and to assure he remained active in Westmont’s day-to-day affairs.

In June of last year, following the untimely resignation of then-president Stan Gaede, Winter made a somewhat heroic comeback, guiding the school through one of its most momentous periods. This included the approval of Westmont’s new campus masterplan, a multi-hundred-million-dollar construction project that is currently entangled in a lawsuit.

Attendance at Saturday’s ceremony, which begins at 10 am, is free and open to the public, but seating and parking are limited. Every year, the college orders 5,000 seats, according to Phil Baker, manager of grounds and transportation.

Off-site parking will be available at Santa Barbara City College with a shuttle service running continuously between 7 am and 3 pm. The school is taking a no-nonsense approach to limiting the number of cars on its property.

“It’s very plain and simple this year: If you don’t have a commencement parking pass, your car won’t be allowed on campus,” said Scott Craig, manager of media relations. “Westmont is trying to do its part to alleviate traffic problems as much as possible.”

For more info on the commencement, call 565-7177 or visit www.westmont.edu/commencement.

Architecture Firm Listed in World’s Top 30

The Warner Group, the Montecito-based architecture firm that has fashioned flourishing estates and country clubs here and worldwide for the past 41 years, accumulated another distinction last month when it was listed among the top 30 architecture firms in the world in the Robb Report Luxury Homes summer edition.

This is the latest honor for a prospering company that is assiduously mentioned in architecture periodicals and has been selected as one of the top 100 architecture firms in the world four times by Architectural Digest, including this year.

The firm’s CEO, Thiep Cung, hailed the mention as “the product of many years of work.”

The listing arrives just as the Warner Group is blossoming into a premier international firm with footholds in several countries, including a 20,000-acre development in Panama and a major mansion in Kuwait for a member of the royal family.

This in addition to the signature work that over the years has cemented the company’s legacy: high-end estates and country clubs. The firm’s project history lists a mix of private residences in Montecito and nationwide and a large contingent of clubs across the California coast, from renovations to the Monterey Peninsula Club and the Los Angeles Country Club to interior touch-ups of Montecito’s Valley Club.

The Warner Group’s accomplishments run the gamut of architectural disciplines, from traditional to contemporary.

“The final work should be a reflection of the owner’s taste,” Cung said.

The firm was founded in 1966 by Jack Lionel Warner, who with partners James Morris and Charles Wilson converted Montecito’s old lemon packing house into what is now Birnam Wood Country Club, for which the company will be performing an upcoming renovation.

Warner, who is now semi-retired and has settled in Sea Ranch, has said before that his company’s success is as much a product of service as it is about minding contours and lines.

“I always interview the family at their home and compare what they want with how they live,” Warner told Architectural Digest earlier this year. “Sometimes a good architect has to be a therapist.”

Oak Creek Bridge Project to Begin May 7

A project to replace a temporary bridge over Oak Creek will begin next week in a laborious phase of construction that is scheduled to last until the middle of September. From May 7 to September 14 crews will be installing a footbridge parallel to the existing bridge on Santa Rosa Lane, adjacent to the YMCA, a period of work that will be subject to full closures of the road with detours and partials closures with one-way traffic controls, according to County Public Works officials.

Access to the YMCA parking lot and Lower Manning Park, both on Santa Rosa Lane, will be maintained throughout construction.

The replacement of the Oak Creek footbridge is the final product of a project that dates back to the installment of the temporary bridge in August 2004. The bridge had been placed to create a safer route for students walking to Montecito Union School.

Construction of the permanent bridge is being made possible by a $400,000 state grant that is funding Safe Routes to School, a County program designed to decrease traffic and pollution by creating opportunities for students to walk to school.