Mark Rocha, Pasadena City College president and superintendent, said he felt like he’d just received the gift that keeps giving when he accepted a $4 million donation from the Westerbeck Family Trust on behalf of PCC Tuesday morning.
The donation is not only the largest in the school’s 87-year history but the fifth largest ever made to a California community college. Rocha declared May 3 be commemorated as “Robert and Adrienne Westerbeck Day” for the PCC family.
“It’s a day [Robert and Adrienne] have made possible for us to declare again our intention to continue our mission of making the dream of quality, higher public education a reality for a generation of students to come,” Rocha said.
The $4 million will create the Robert Westerbeck Scholarship Fund, a permanent endowment for PCC students. Each year more than 200 students will receive scholarships of at least $1,000 from the endowment.
“Usually you get a donation and once you use it up, it’s all gone. This gift is extraordinary because it will never run out,” Rocha said.
The scholarship fund, which will rely on interest earned by the $4 million endowment, gives PCC flexibility to appeal to high-performing high school students in places like La Cañada, which lies in Area One of the Pasadena Area Community College District, Rocha said.
“It enables us to bring in those talented students from our districts and also help those students who couldn’t otherwise afford it,” Rocha said.
Geoff Baum, the vice president of PCC’s board of trustees and La Cañada's representative for the Pasadena Area Community College District, said the Westerbeck Trust donation will make a huge difference for many students.
“I think this is a transformational moment for PCC that shows there’s so much potential for the future. The investment to be made in our students is also an investment in our community,” Baum said.
The Westerbeck Scholarship will be given out in the spring and fall semesters as funds allow. Full-time Pasadena City College students who are enrolled for at least six units at PCC in the ensuing term and with at least 24 units of college credit, with a 2.5 grade-point average and two recommendations from faculty, will be eligible for the scholarship. Those funds will be made available for tuition/fees, textbooks, equipment and other education related expenses.
“By making this gift, they’re investing in thousands of students going forward in the future,” Baum said.
Robert Westerbeck, a former Pasadena resident, attended what was then Pasadena Junior College from 1932 through 1936, graduating from PJC High and the college. Westerbeck met his wife, Adrienne, in one of his music classes at PJC — she was the teacher. Robert died in 2006 and Adrienne died last year at the age of 103.
After graduating from PCC, Robert worked as an engineer for Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank and Perkin-Elmer Corporation in Pasadena. He often credited the education he received at PCC for his success.
“There is nothing [Robert and Adrienne] wanted more than to give back what Pasadena City College gave them,” said Hermina Allen, manager of the Westerbeck Family Trust. “I know they would be delighted to know that their legacy will be that hundreds more students will have the opportunity for the PCC education that they were so grateful for.”