By any account, $75 million is a lot of money.
If you are a small, Christian college laboring with recovery from a major fire and an ambitious expansion plan, it’s an enormous amount of money.
Which is why the report in this issue of the Business Times that Westmont College’s mystery donor won’t be able to honor the full $75 million he pledged for campus expansion several years ago is both baffling and frustrating.
It is baffling because the donor, presumed by many to be Stephen Adams, owner of failed Affinity Bank and problem-plagued Affinity Media, has yet to identify him or herself. Baffling too, because if it is Adams, he’s yet to offer a cogent explanation as to why the money won’t be forthcoming.
It is frustrating because this is a cornerstone grant for Westmont, which labored for more than a decade to gain approval for its expansion, a development that will put the Montecito college in a whole new league when it comes to Christian education.
It is also frustrating because if it is Adams, the once self-proclaimed billionaire has elected to fulfill a large gift to Yale University made at approximately the same time as the Westmont pledge.
When the Business Times first heard about the $75 million Westmont gift a few years ago, we raised questions about why it had to be anonymous. There was some speculation at the time that Adams might be the donor but the Westmont community was tight-lipped because of disclosure.
Now it appears that the idea of maintaining radio silence about such a large gift was short-sighted. Having an anonymous donor slip away quietly is not the same as having a prominent local resident step up and say that he or she cannot deliver on the promises made in better times.
A little transparency here would go a very long way. The bottom line is that it would be far better for Westmont, the mystery donor and the entire region if an honest accounting for the pledged funds can be provided.
That way, others in the community will be encouraged to step up and fill the gap. The Westmont leadership might be surprised to learn that there are many in our area who appreciate the contribution that Westmont makes to our communities even if they don’t share its educational philosophy.