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Philanthropist Michael Towbes to Receive Westmont Medal

The college will honor the Santa Barbara businessman at its May 8 commencement

Michael Towbes, one of Santa Barbara’s leading philanthropists, will receive the Westmont Medal at commencement, returning to the college’s newly renovated Russell Carr Field at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 8.

Last year, construction and rebuilding from the Tea Fire forced the graduation ceremony off campus.

Towbes, chairman of The Towbes Group and Montecito Bank & Trust and chief financial officer of The Towbes Foundation, is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton University, and he attended graduate school at MIT.

The Westmont Medal honors those whose lives embody the principles associated with the Judeo-Christian character of Westmont College. Honorees give substance and credence to the college’s beliefs and serve as effective role models for students.

As a community leader, Towbes has served and chaired innumerable local nonprofit boards. He was president of the Santa Barbara Foundation and served on the board of Cottage Hospital for 27 years, including five years as its chairman. He made multimillion-dollar gifts to create The Granada and to ensure the continued presence of classical music radio station KDB.

Richard Foster, author and founder of Renovaré, will present the commencement address, “The Humiliation of the Word in Our Day,” a title taken from Jacques Ellul’s The Humiliation of the Word. Foster, best known for his book Celebration of Discipline, co-authored Longing for God: Seven Paths of Spiritual Devotion with Westmont President Gayle Beebe.

Commencement will feature 330 graduates, 119 with honors. Among the students graduating with honors will be 60-year-old Colleen Atkinson, Westmont assistant to the campus pastor for more than eight years. Atkinson, a religious studies major, has earned her bachelor’s degree after first attending junior college 40 years ago.

Three Monroe Scholars will graduate: Elri ten Brink, a biology major from San Diego; Daniel Wendler, a double major in Spanish and economics and business from Carlsbad; and Andrea Owen, a Spanish major from Dallas, Texas. The Monroe Scholarship is a four-year, full-tuition scholarship offered to a few exceptionally high-achieving first-year students each year. It is the highest academic honor an incoming student may receive.

Commencement is free and open to the public, but there is no parking available on campus. Guests will need to park at SBCC and use Westmont’s free shuttle service to the ceremony.

— Scott Craig is the media relations manager for Westmont College.

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