Westmont College’s final $40 million fundraising drive got off to a huge start Saturday evening with the announcement of a $5-million pledge by local philanthropic icon Leslie Ridley-Tree.

Leslie Ridley-Tree

Leslie Ridley-Tree

With the gift, the school has raised more than $67 million of its $102 million goal to complete buildings and facilities under construction on campus as part of the school’s master plan.

Ridley-Tree has contributed millions of dollars to dozens of causes and campaigns over the years, and her latest gift was celebrated at Westmont’s Bright Hope for Tomorrow kickoff event at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort.

“I passionately believe in education and want to support Westmont’s mission of educating young men and women to succeed in all areas of life and make an impact worldwide,” said Ridley-Tree, who has established several scholarships at the interdenominational Christian liberal arts university at 955 La Paz Road.

President Gayle D. Beebe praised Ridley-Tree’s generous investments in the lives of others.

“Lady Ridley-Tree’s philanthropic efforts reflect an exceptional selflessness and love for the people who live in this community,” he said.

Ridley-Tree, a member of the Westmont Music Council, and her late husband, Paul, were honored with the Westmont Medal at the college’s 2003 graduation ceremony. Paul Ridley-Tree, an industrialist who founded Santa Monica-based Pacific Air Industries, an airplane parts manufacturer, died in 2005 at age 88.

Westmont officials say the school will hold about a dozen campaign events throughout the United States over the next year, meeting with alumni, parents and friends who support the college’s mission.

“The Bright Hope for Tomorrow campaign will provide well-designed places where students and faculty can flourish,” Beebe said.

“Adams Center for the Visual Arts, Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics, athletic fields and a new observatory will become essential tools for carrying out our mission of transforming students to serve globally.”

Click here for more information on the Bright Hope for Tomorrow campaign. Click here to make a donation to the campaign.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.