Volume 1, Edition 4, March 2014
I’m always amazed that we start planning for graduation during the early winter months! Our office is busy coordinating chapter events, training 16 new student ambassadors to conduct face-to-face interviews with alumni in their hometowns, launching Westmont Connect, and planning for Parents Weekend and Spring Sing.
In May, Westmont will graduate its largest class ever: 360 new alumni! The world will become a better place as they walk into their futures, guided by our great God. It’s still as exciting as it was when you and I graduated. The size of the class of 2014 presents some challenges for the admissions office, however. As you are praying for the college, please remember our admissions staff as they recruit students for fall 2014.
I’m pleased to bring news and updates to you through this newsletter. All of us in the alumni office hope it will encourage you, inspire you and make you proud to be a Westmont alum. Please feel free to email me with any ideas for topics to include that would interest you and our alumni.
Blessings on you!
Teri Bradford Rouse
Senior Director of Alumni and Parent Relations
Westmont Connect Launches
After two years of laser-like focus on an idea originating in the Alumni Council, the tireless and talented IT department, (who deserve so much credit along with the Alumni Council and my amazing boss, Dr. Reed Sheard) has delivered Westmont Connect for you. You’ve likely heard about it before, but now you can actually sign up and get started connecting with your alumni friends around the world. Find and connect with old friends, establish new friends, look for or post a job, and share your story on Westmont Connect! ... Use Westmont Connect to help get established in a new community, find a church, discover a cool place to have dinner, and so much more! Go to www.westmontconnect.org and sign up now.
Please note: You must sign up before you can log in, and you must fill in your date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number. If we don’t have those on file, you will need to call our office so we can update your record. Then connect away!!
We’re looking for innovative places to launch Westmont Connect in person with Westmont alumni. For example, we held our first event at eBay, with 70 alumni and friends in attendance! If you work at a site that could accommodate a group and has the capability to show a PowerPoint presentation, let us know. We had a blast at eBay and send a big thank-you to Dane Howard ’94 for hosting us.
In each edition of 955, we highlight alumni so we can hear about the many ways God has worked and moved among you all. This month we feature Mark ’90 and Lisa Hardy Kirchgestner ’90.
As people who happily refer to themselves as city dwellers, we have a particular verse that has been deeply meaningful. In Jeremiah 29:7 the prophet is commanded to share this surprising word of instruction with the people of God, who have been taken to Babylon as an exiled people.
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
This word has become a vision statement of sorts for us. Of course, we weren’t taken by force into an exiled life in the city, but the force of God’s call drew us here and has kept us here.
... We have lived in San Francisco for almost 24 years since graduating from Westmont in 1990. Mark attended the Urban Program in the fall of 1989, fell in love with the city, and came away with a vision for putting down roots here to seek its welfare (shalom) in whatever shape that would take over the years. We loved raising our two children, Luke (22) and Karis (19), class of 2016, in San Francisco amidst all its diversity and cultural vibrancy. We’re constantly telling young couples, “Stay! You can raise your kids here!”
In the early years, Mark served as an area director for Young Life, working with urban youth, while earning his master’s from Fuller Seminary. More recently he has been engaged in pastoral ministry, now serving as lead pastor at Dolores Park Church, a 130-year-old intergenerational and multiethnic church in the Mission District, which is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church. In between pastorates, Mark worked for a couple of years with International Justice Mission as director of church mobilization for the West Coast. A highlight was getting the chance to travel to India to participate in caring for people rescued from modern-day slavery and then returning to Westmont to share the story as a chapel speaker. To this day, Mark’s passion is to equip and empower people to live and serve as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.
Lisa has a master’s in education and worked for more than a decade as a learning specialist. She now has a private practice as an educational therapist. Four years ago, she joined the staff at Dolores Park Church as the director of spiritual formation. She leads retreats, trains leaders, counsels parishioners, facilitates prayer, and writes for the encouragement of the church. Currently she is training for a Certificate of Spiritual Direction through North Park Theological Seminary and is looking forward to an expanding role in vocational ministry. This season of being more actively engaged in ministry together has been fulfilling in so many ways. We see how our years of life together, of parenting, of hardship and celebrations, have given us an easy partnership that is a true joy.
Westmont transformed us both. In addition to being deeply influenced by the opportunities for intellectual and spiritual growth, we came away from Westmont with a community of mentors and friends we’ve relied upon for more than two decades. Their words and examples grounded us in the ways of Christ. We still recall many holy moments of observing faculty and those in leadership living out their faith as integrated people, followers of Jesus who lived holistically: body, mind and soul. They gave us a vision for what it might be like to do so ourselves. Our time there was a short four years, but when we asked personal questions of these forerunners, they lived vulnerably in front of us, answering with their real lives. They modeled humility, gentleness, grief, celebration, curiosity, wonder and love, and it absolutely ruined us for anything other than that kind of honest living.
We have sought to pass on this gift to those we serve in our community of faith and in San Francisco. In a city that is so transitory and diverse, it’s easy for people to hunker down with a protectionist mentality or to just wear out and leave. In our experience, being rooted deeply in the love of Christ allows people to flourish and allows them to bring shalom to the city. We’ve learned during these many years that in the city’s shalom we find our shalom. So, for as long as folks are here, with whatever hopes or weariness they bring, we want to be a loving presence in their lives, the hands and feet of Jesus in a city that is so thirsty for his loving kindness.
Now that our daughter is a sophomore at Westmont, we’ve loved visiting and seeing anew through her eyes the gift Westmont continues to be to so many. We’re so grateful to observe that she enjoys so many of the same blessings we enjoyed intellectually, spiritually and relationally—but we have no illusions that she’ll attend Westmont in San Francisco anytime soon.
Get a glimpse of what our faculty is reading!
Cheri L. Larsen Hoeckley, Professor of English, Coordinator of Gender Studies
Early reviews of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland stressed its heart-breaking qualities, so I turned to it with a little trepidation. Tragedy certainly marks the characters in The Lowland, but so does that same endurance, strength and protectiveness that often color her earlier work with both quiet hope and contentment. Lahiri’s latest novel also grapples with the themes that drew me earlier—migration, family ties, academic culture, the Bengali diaspora, and the challenges of knowing others, even those we deeply love. ... In The Lowland, these traits come together through the story of two brothers separated in early adulthood when the older Subhash leaves Calcutta to study in the U.S., while the younger Udayan chooses the secretive and dangerous path of a political radical at home.
Of course, Lahiri’s finely honed, almost meditative prose offers plenty to savor at regular intervals. For instance, when a newly heart-broken and homesick Subhash begins his third autumn in Rhode Island, we see this landscape:
Once more the leaves of the trees lost their chlorophyll, replaced by the shades he had left behind: vivid hues of cayenne and turmeric and ginger pounded fresh every morning in the kitchen, to season the food his mother prepared.
Once more these colors seemed to have been transported across the world, appearing in the treetops that lined his path. The colors intensified over a period of weeks until the leaves began to dwindle, foliage clustered here and there among the branches, like butterflies feeding at the same source, before falling to the ground. (82)
Juxtaposing metaphor and memory, Lahiri captures Subhash’s sense of longing along with the aching possibility of a new life not yet his.
One intriguing development for Lahiri in The Lowland is a fuller exploration of female interiority than we’ve seen in any of her earlier work. Though the story centers on two brothers, both Guari, Udayan’s young widow who marries Subhash to emigrate with him to the US and Bela, Guari’s daughter, exist more vividly and compellingly here than do many of Lahiri’s earlier female characters. Lahiri develops Guari slowly, not entirely revealing her thoughts, her passions, her history, or even her mind-bending intellect until the novel’s final third. Likewise, since Bella enters the novel as a baby, her inner life emerges in the later pages, with a texture of loneliness, self-sufficiency, and thoughtful generosity of spirit. Richer in many ways even than Lahiri’s earlier work, The Lowland again reminds us that if there are no universal human experiences, there are still abundant possibilities for points of contact where we can meet across our differences.
Greg Spencer, Professor of Communication
Sometimes we read books because they are on a list of “must reads” or “should reads” or because the stack on the nightstand is about to crash onto the floor. Jim Belcher’s In Search of Deep Faith came in the mail, unsolicited, as a Christmas present. The subtitle said it was “A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity.” Some hyperbole there, no doubt—but the table of contents revealed the road through the warranted wealth of Lewis and Wilberforce, Van Gogh and Trocme, even of Maria Von Trapp. I worried that this path was getting too worn but I gave the book a try.
I liked it right away. Belcher writes skillfully in a travelogue style, taking his readers through places and ideas, alternating between the faith struggles of his historical friends and the family struggles he and his wife faced while homeschooling their four children “on the road.” ... I find that I am getting caught up in their issues and crises—and Belcher works these out in light of particular writings and particular locations.
Here’s one example. Jim and his wife Michelle were discouraged about their son, Jordan, who stubbornly disobeyed. How could they help him to take sin seriously, without becoming finger-pointing guilt-mongers? They took their children to Christ Church Meadow in Oxford (where they began their pilgrimage) to talk through the importance of confession in George Whitefield’s conversion. Then Jim strung together the double life of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a conversation with Tim Keller about how Robert Louis Stevenson’s story connects to Romans chapter seven, and a discussion by Dick Keyes on shame. These fascinating threads led him to important conclusions for his children’s sake. If you want to see the whole fabric, you’ll have to read the book for yourself.
Westmont Impact Conference June 19-20
What if you could experience a renewal of faith while discovering incredible ways people just like you are making an impact in the world? This June, Westmont is hosting the Impact Conference, featuring speakers who will inspire, challenge and empower you to make a difference in your communities, whether at the beach, the office or over social media. Register for a chance to hear from Christians who will challenge your heart and mind. Explore topics like abolishing human trafficking, using business and entrepreneurship for social change, and tackling the challenges of leadership. Discounts are available for groups of three or more, so make it a family affair!
Have questions? Feel free to email Veronica Ocejo at email@example.com or call 805-565-6264. To see a full list of our speakers, find out more about the conference and register, go to westmontimpact.org.
Devotional Thought: Words from Campus Pastor Ben Patterson
God is not vague.
Though he is beyond us, he doesn’t typically say things that are totally over our heads. He wants to be understood and known—not comprehensively, for that would be impossible for us, but enough that we can know what he wants us to do and be. We may never know the depths of God’s truth, but he makes it accessible enough to wade in the shallows. How deep we go is a matter of grace and time and desire.
... I recently read through the book of the prophet Micah, and that’s what I came away with: God is not vague. Micah 6:8 contains one of the most famous summary statements in all the Bible of what God wants us to know and do. That single verse has been memorized, preached and even sung for centuries: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” There is nothing vague about that. There are other things he is equally definite about. He hates, repeat hates, idolatry, injustice, rebellion and empty formalism in religion. Open Micah randomly to just about any page and you will find expressions of God’s loathing of these things. But he is just as definite about how much he loves to forgive the penitent. He loves to restore those who do what he hates. Micah exults in this: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy” (18). What could be better than to know exactly what God hates, loves and expects of us?
God is not vague, but we are.
Part of what it means to be a sinner is to know how to complicate the simple, make the unambiguous ambiguous and to qualify the unqualified. God responds to this obfuscation in kind; to the pure he shows himself pure, to the shrewd he shows himself shrewd (Cf. Ps. 18:25-27), and to the vague he will seem vague. Reading a prophet like Micah scrubs the vagueness out of your brain. It works like a dash of cold water on the face, or a compass in a dark forest pointing to true north. Read Micah and don’t be vague; heartily agree with what God hates and loves; by praise, thanksgiving, petition—and confession. And pray for Westmont, that as we teach students to appreciate the complexity of the world, we do not confuse it with being vague.
Westmont Homecoming and Reunions
It’s never too early to save the date for 2014 Homecoming, October 17-19!
Reunion dinners will be held on Saturday evening, October 18. If you have a reunion this year (classes ending in 4 or 9) and want to help get your reunion class together, please email Lorinda Dry at firstname.lastname@example.org. The more people who get involved, the more rewarding it will be! More information to come on the alumni website.
Resources for Alumni
Alumni Career Webinar Series
More than 200 of you have registered for our free monthly career webinars! If you haven’t already taken advantage of these helpful sessions, don’t miss the next one on April 2 by Al Duncan, a former corporate trainer. ... Al will talk from his book “Getting ALL Fired Up! About Living Your Dreams." These webinars, taught by leading experts in various fields, are free to alumni. Go to www.alumnicareerservices.org/westmont to sign up and take advantage of the last few this year. Once you sign up, you can access previous seminars, found in the archived section of the website.
Alumni Insurance: A Tangible Benefit of Membership
As a Westmont alum, you can take advantage of special rates and discounts for auto, homeowners, life and health insurance through Mercer Consumer, a service of Mercer Health & Benefits Administration LLC, and well-known providers such as Liberty Mutual Insurance. This means you can secure essential protection worry-free. To learn more and enroll, click here www.libertymutual.com/westmont or call
Save The Date - Upcoming Campus Events
Spring Sing: March 29
Westmont Impact Conference: June 19-20
Westmont Homecoming: October 17-19
If you are not receiving the e-newsletter and would like to, please contact the Alumni Office at email@example.com or (805)565-6056.