Lyle Charles Hillegas
Lyle Charles Hillegas
1934 – 2008
Dr. Lyle Charles Hillegas served as the fifth president of Westmont College from 1972 to 1975. At 37, he was the youngest person ever appointed to the position and the only one to come directly from the ranks of the faculty. During his tenure, he recruited a strong team of administrators, began the process of increasing enrollment from 800 to 1,200 and worked on preserving Westmont’s gardens and beautifying the campus.
Born in Gresham, Wisconsin to Charles (Ward) and Norma Hillegas, he grew up in Neenah, Wisconsin. Hillegas graduated from William Jennings Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee and earned a doctor of theology degree in church history from Dallas Theological Seminary. His dissertation on the history of Westmont brought him to campus in 1962 to do research, and he stayed on, serving first as head resident, dean of men and chaplain before becoming associate professor of religious studies.
A popular teacher, Hillegas built strong relationships with students, who welcomed his appointment to the presidency. He maintained relationships with many former students who remained great friends throughout his life.
Hillegas became an ordained Presbyterian minister after leaving Westmont and served as the senior pastor of El Montecito Presbyterian Church for 18 years. The congregation grew significantly under his ministry. He also encouraged support for foreign missions. Lyle was a true pastor, teacher and preacher, who delighted in sharing God’s word, whether in the pulpit, chapel, or small group setting.
In recent years, Hillegas filled interim pastoral positions in Orcutt and Santa Ynez and became the driving force behind Front Porch, a Presbytery outreach to college students at UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He directed the program at UCSB for several years before retiring.
An unabashed Anglophile, Lyle led several trips to England and traveled there as often as he could. Not only did he spend time studying at Cambridge, but he exchanged pulpits with an English minister for six months during his years at El Montecito. He took a sabbatical there in 1990 with his family.
Hillegas and his wife, Melissa, who graduated from Westmont in 1975, have two grown sons, Hunter-Scott and Thatcher, as well as daughter-in-law Megan. His sister, Iva Hillegas Schatz, worked at the college for many years in the gift planning office. Lyle’s parents and older sister, Winifred, predeceased him.
Lyle’s desire in life was to be a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. He labored toward that end for his too-short, 74 year life. His family and many, many friends will miss his laugh and smile that filled the room. And, it filled our hearts.
We are the richer for it.
…to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
The memorial service for Dr. Hillegas will be Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. at El Montecito Presbyterian Church, 1455 East Valley Road in Montecito. A reception will follow at the church. Attendees are encouraged to please carpool, if at all possible
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a donation in Lyle’s memory be made to Westmont College, 955 La Paz Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 or to the Presbytery of Santa Barbara, specifying Front Porch Ministries, 6067 Shirrell Way, Goleta, CA 93117