The Westerman Legacy and the Future of Student Life at KPU

Plans underway for Surrey property bequeathed to the university

Wallace Construction’s excavator disposes rubbles from the demolition of the Westerman property on Dec. 8, 2016. (Tommy Nguyen)

Not too many KPU students know who the Westermans were, despite the considerable role the couple played in the birth of our university.

In 1982 Ernest and Margaret Westerman sold a plot of land to Kwantlen College that would later become KPU’s Surrey campus. Had the Westermans opted to sell the property to a housing developer—who surely would’ve given them a lot more money than the fledgling post-secondary institution—KPU would never have become the school it is today.

The Westermans added to their contribution in 2014 when, after Margaret’s passing, their personal residence was also left to the university. Now plans are underway on how to take advantage of the additional real estate, both in the short and long term, and also for how to memorialize the couple who made KPU what it is.

Westerman property in July 2015 prior to its demolition. (Street View / Google Maps)

“KPU and the KSA are working together to honor the Westerman house and the Westerman legacy of giving back to the community,” say’s Kwantlen Student Association Vice President of Student life Natasha Lopes.

The sizable Westerman property is located directly next door to the Surrey campus. The house, garage, and driveway were demolished earlier this month, leaving behind the Westermans’ old orchards and hazelnut trees. Currently, the property is left vacant, although the orchards and hazelnut trees continue to be tended to and harvested by KPU agriculture and horticulture programs. With the demolition of any structures on the property, the land has been unfenced and will soon be available for student use. For the short term, a report by the KPU Environmental Sustainability Committee from this past summer notes that the space could be well used for student life activities like bocce ball, croquet, football, soccer, and Frisbee while long term plans are finalized for the property.

There are plenty of options for what to do with the newly acquired real estate, and nothing is set in stone as to the long term future of the property just yet. However, a likely possibility—and favorite option as far as the KSA is concerned—is the construction of a new student union building that would house the KSA offices, club space, and other student life initiatives.

Lopes says that the KSA is also planning on expanding the campus community garden—currently named after the Westermans—to include the Westerman’s orchachards.

It’s fitting that the Westerman’s were able to make this final contribution to the Students of KPU. Over the years since the institution’s founding, and after her husband’s passing in 1984, Margaret continued to feel close to the KPU community.

“I’ve had 24 years alone in that house, but I haven’t felt lonely once,” Margaret Westerman told the Kwantlen Chronicle in 2008 after receiving an honorary membership from the KSA. “Just seeing those students is what keeps me going.”

To further honor the couple who were highly active in the community at KPU and beyond—the Westermans often volunteered time and resources to community food initiatives—the KSA has organized a food drive this month to run through December until the campuses closing for the holidays. The drive supports the KSA food bank program, which aims to provide food for KPU students in need.

“Ms. Westerman was a huge proponent of food safety and community members having access to food,” says Lopes. “She would consistently volunteer in the community, sponsor food drives, and give back in some shape or form.”