David K. Winter, who served as Westmont College’s president for 25 years, died of cancer on August 15, at age 84. Under Winter’s leadership from 1976-2001, Westmont expanded from a small Christian liberal arts college in rural Montecito to a nationally ranked institution known for its spiritual life and student ministry, faculty, facilities, endowment and off-campus study opportunities. After retirement, Winter began serving on the board for Providence Hall in 2008, a new high school in Santa Barbara, when he learned it had no headmaster and offered to fill the void for three months. That turned into three years, and the private Christian school received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges under Winter’s guidance.
Winter’s life spanned four years in the U.S. Navy as an intelligence officer, a doctorate in anthropology and sociology from Michigan State University, work in Lahore, Pakistan, and teaching and administrative positions at several Midwestern colleges. An expansion effort was ongoing at Westmont when he arrived, and Winter jumped in, speaking before the Board of Supervisors and walking the neighborhood to talk with his new neighbors. In 1986, Bowling Green State University named him among the 100 most effective college leaders in the U.S. Despite the loss of 80 percent of his eyesight in 1998 due to blood restriction in his optic nerve, Winter continued to serve at Westmont, returning in 2006 when then-president Stan Gaede stepped down and before Gayle Beebe was recruited.
Winter served on numerous community boards, including those for Cottage Health, United Way, Mosher Foundation, Montecito Association, Braille Institute, and Habitat for Humanity, and also national ones like D.C.’s Council on Higher Education. In 2011, the new Hall for Science and Mathematics at Westmont was dedicated to him, and for 14 years, Westmont has presented leadership scholarships in his name.
Winter is survived by his wife, Helene; his three children, Laura, Bruce, and Frankie; Helene’s children, Steve and Jeremy Kamm and Stacey Smith; and 10 grandchildren. A public memorial service will take place Saturday, August 29, at First Presbyterian Church, 21 East Constance Avenue, at 10 a.m.