Honoring Ridley-Tree, Her Generosity

By Scott Craig   |   October 11, 2022
Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree graciously supported Westmont, as she did for countless other organizations, including extensive art donations (photo by Brad Elliott)

The Westmont community mourns the passing of Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, whose generosity made a profound impact on the college and touched the lives of many people and organizations in the Santa Barbara community. She personified what it means to be a true philanthropist.

“She’s one of the most remarkable human beings to walk the face of the Earth, and I loved being with her,” says President Gayle D. Beebe. “She could be serious, and she could be incredibly joyful and funny, all in the same conversation.

“Every time we were together, I would come away with a deeper appreciation for driving issues, a richer understanding of life, and a greater commitment to efforts that make life so worth living. She was always looking for the best in situations without ever glossing over the difficulties. She made every one of us better, both our lives, and our contribution.”

The Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art, named for her, opened in the heart of Westmont’s campus during the 2010-11 season. She donated 20 significant works of art to the college, including originals by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, seven paintings by Barbizon artists, and a large painting of Lord Paul and Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree by Bo Bartlett

Ridley-Tree’s Corot collection, supplemented with selected loans of Corot’s art from museums and private collections, appeared in “Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot” in 2013 at the museum. 

A 2016 exhibition on campus, “Barbizon, Realism, and Impressionism in France,” featured Ridley-Tree’s extensive collection.

Her generosity helped Westmont acquire the Westmont Downtown building, 26 West Anapamu Street, which underwent renovation and now houses Westmont’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in partnership with Cottage Health. She also contributed a significant gift to fund nursing scholarships. 

Along with gifts to the Westmont Orchestra, she created the Ridley-Tree Vocal Scholarship to support students in the Westmont College Choir. 

Beginning in 2008, she created the Ridley-Tree Endowed Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to students with an interest in studying art, history, music, or philosophy. 

The Lord and Lady Ridley-Tree Scholarship, which the Ridley-Tree Foundation created in 2001, has provided financial aid to Westmont students for more than two decades. 

“I will truly miss the joy that accompanied every meeting I had with her,” Beebe says. “She made me a better person and a more complete follower of God. She will always live in my memory as one of the most unique human beings I’ve ever known.”  


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