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$4-million bequest is largest ever for Pasadena City College

May 3, 2011 |  3:17 pm

Pasadena City College announced Tuesday that it has received a $4-million donation -- the largest in the school’s 87-year history -- to be used to fund hundreds of student scholarships each year.

The gift comes from alumnus Robert Westerbeck and his wife Adrienne and will establish the Robert Westerbeck Scholarship Endowment, which will provide a minimum of $1,000 for fees, textbooks and other expenses for more than 200 full-time students annually.

It is one of the largest single bequests to a California community college, officials said, and comes at a time when the Pasadena school and other public colleges are grappling with declining state support.

“It’s historic and a real game-changer for us,” said President Mark Rocha. “At a time when  schools are so troubled on the budget front, when public education is under fire, it’s almost like (the Westerbecks) are voicing a message of 'keep the faith.' "

Robert Westerbeck, an engineer, graduated in 1936 from what was then Pasadena Junior College, where he excelled in archery, golf, cycling and other sports. He worked as a machinist during World War ll before joining Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank and later the Perkin-Elmer Corp., another engineering firm. He died in 2006 at 89.

Westerbeck had an interest in music, which led to his meeting Adrienne.

Adrienne Westerbeck earned bachelor’s and master's degrees in music as well as a master's in education from the University of Southern California. She was a music teacher at Pasadena City College until her retirement in 1971 and also gave private piano and organ lessons. She died in 2010 at 103 years old.

They were a vibrant, fun-loving but humble couple who lived modestly in their Pasadena neighborhood, said Hermina Allen, a neighbor and family friend who manages the Westerbeck Family Trust. 
“The school meant a lot to them and they would be delighted to know their legacy will allow hundreds of students to have the same opportunities they had,” Allen said.

A provision of the Westerbeck bequest allows funds to be matched by the Bernard Osher Scholarship, which will increase the total endowment for student support. Rocha also said there are plans to recognize the Westerbecks at the college’s new Center for the Arts, due to open in October 2012.

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-- Carla Rivera

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