Westmont Magazine A Fall into Grace
When Diane Douglass Iverson ’61 saw her husband, Tom ’60, fall off the roof of their home last August, she thought she had lost him. Rushing to his side, she screamed for help. But her panic receded when she realized he was still breathing. Friends, neighbors, and their sons soon surrounded her, and their endless support sustained her through long weeks and months of uncertainty. Each day she made a deliberate decision to be cheerful and positive even though her husband lay in the hospital unconscious and unresponsive.
Tom, who is provost and senior vice president of Central College in Pella, Iowa, doesn’t remember the accident or the weeks immediately following. Fortunately, he recalls everything else, including his 24-year career as a mathematics professor and administrator at Central, his three sons and six grandchildren, and his involvement at Third Reformed Church.
Despite suffering a severe brain injury, Tom is on his way to a complete recovery. He left the hospital in October, much sooner than doctors expected, and resumed working part time in December. Friends and family call it a miracle.
“Actually it’s not just my miracle,” he explains. “It’s our miracle. God helped Diane as much as he did me.”
“It was a life-changing experience,” Diane adds. “God saw me through it in a miraculous way. At first, I didn’t know if he would live, and then I didn’t know what I would get back. But I never felt alone. The support we received was incredible.”
People from the college and their church reached out in many ways: they prayed, visited, mailed cards, and brought food. The Iversons’ son Paul sent out daily e-mails about Tom’s condition, which went to the entire college community. Central President David Roe described the accident as a “spiritual event” at the college. Students who didn’t know Tom met to pray for him.
The prayer network extended to the Iversons’ Westmont friends. Tom graduated in 1960 and returned to teach mathematics from 1967-1970 after earning a master’s at Washington University in Missouri. He then received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Claremont Graduate School in California. Diane attended Westmont for a year and graduated from Central in 1979.
Physical healing wasn’t the only challenge Tom faced. When he regained consciousness, he felt deeply discouraged and pessimistic. “I thought life held nothing more for me,” he recalls. Doctors suggested an anti-depressant. But Paul, who had read a great deal about brain injuries, thought Tom’s attitude would improve with his health. They decided against the medication.
“We can’t always choose our circumstances, but we can choose how to respond to them,” Tom explains. “I have decided to choose joy and to see what God has left for me to do.”
After serving for a year as interim dean and another year as interim president at Central, Tom needed someone to fill in for him during the fall semester. While he has returned to work part time, he tires easily and knows he must be patient and not do too much. He underwent months of physical therapy, relearning professional skills, and he continues to work out at the college’s fitness facility to build up his strength.
Tom and Diane feel almost overwhelmed with the prayers and support they have received since that day in August when their world fell apart. “God has certainly used the accident for good by bringing people together,” Tom notes.
“I know the reason I slept well at night was because friends stayed awake and prayed for us,” Diane says. “What a blessing.”