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Longtime Westmont Trustee Bill Kerr Dies at 95

The son of the college's founder, he continued a tradition of service and giving

William “Bill” Kerr, a longtime college trustee and the son of Westmont College founder Ruth Kerr, died Nov. 5. He was 95.

William “Bill” Kerr
William “Bill” Kerr (Westmont College Archives courtesy photo)

A memorial service will be held at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16 in the Church of the Hills at Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills.

Kerr was one of six children of Alexander H. and Ruth K. Kerr, who helped establish Westmont in 1937 in Los Angeles and then moved the college to its current Santa Barbara location in 1945.

He became a trustee in 1973, continuing his parents’ tradition of service and giving. He ran the Kerr Glass Manufacturing Co. until he retired and the family sold its interest in the business in 1984.

Through the Alexander H. Kerr Benevolent Association (later known as the A. H. Kerr Foundation), he gave $1 million gifts to Westmont to renovate the Ruth Kerr Memorial Student Center in 1982 and the Whittier Science Building in 1985. He also contributed significantly toward the building of the Emerson Residence Hall.

“Bill was an important and valued member of the board of trustees,” Westmont President Gayle Beebe said. “He shared his mother’s interest in providing financial aid to worthy students, while stepping in at crucial times to meet other special financial needs. It has meant so much to the college that a member of the family has carried on Ruth Kerr’s commitment to Westmont all these years.”

In the summer of 1996, Kerr was instrumental in initiating the Trustee Scholarship Fund for Westmont. He also funded the purchase of a much-needed academic computer in the late 1980s. He chaired the Westmont Foundation in the 1980s and served on Westmont’s capital campaign steering committees in 1979 and 1989.

Kerr graduated from USC in 1936, did graduate work in chemistry, and served as an airline pilot for Trans World Airlines and Northrop Aircraft Co. He left TWA when his mother asked him to take a leadership role in the Kerr Company.

As a flight instructor for Fleet Flying Service in Van Nuys, he taught the late American actor Jimmy Stewart to fly. He consulted for several companies and was director of SGI International, a coal and crude-oil-residual processing company. He also served as director of Lau Capital Funding and general manager of Original Ideas Inc., an invention company that he helped to start.

He chaired Bainbridge Technology Group, a management consulting firm. He was an elder at Bel Air Presbyterian Church and active on the Forest Home Auxiliary.

Kerr is survived by his children, Connie and Bill, and five grandchildren. His wife, Beverly, and son, David, preceded him in death.

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

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