Westmont Magazine A Family Tradition
Attending Westmont is a family affair for Steve ’76 and Sharon Gerlach ’78 White. Sharon’s parents, Harlan and Ruth Sauerwein Gerlach, belong to the class of 1952, and Steve and Sharon have siblings who are alums: Julie White Pickering ’80 and Paul Gerlach ’80.
A new generation is carrying on this tradition as Steve and Sharon’s daughter, Kirsten, just finished her first year. Interested in supporting Westmont and being involved in their children’s activities, the
Whites have agreed to join the Westmont Parents Council.
“We were really impressed by the Parents Council members who spoke during Orientation last year,” Steve explains. “Their comments were candid and practical and helped us adjust to having a daughter in college.”
Steve and Sharon met at Westmont, where they both majored in economics and business and studied under Ira Rapson and Lou Kuipers, professors who took a personal interest in them.
After graduation, Steve joined his father in his real estate appraisal business. Gradually, Steve phased into becoming self-employed, but he continued sharing office space with his dad. Sharon worked briefly, but soon became a full-time mother to their three children (Kirsten, 19; Justin, 17; and Brendan, 14).
Not only did Kirsten grow up hearing stories about Westmont, but she went to Homecoming nearly every year with her family. Steve and Sharon’s close friends, Ken ’76 and Pam Rather ’77 Prickett, traveled to Santa Barbara with them each time someone had a reunion — and even when they didn’t.
The Prickett’s daughter, Nicole, also just finished her first year at Westmont.
When she was considering colleges, Kirsten decided to attend a Westmont Preview Day for prospective students and use her experience as a baseline for comparing other schools.
“We really wanted Kirsten to go to Westmont, but we knew it needed to be her decision, so we backed off,” Steve notes. “We were pleasantly surprised when she chose Westmont. She was attracted to its rigorous academic program and the genuine spiritual atmosphere on campus. Now we can’t imagine her being anywhere else.”
“At Orientation we discovered that Westmont is even better than it was 20 years ago — both academically and spiritually,” Sharon states. “We knew she would have a wonderful experience.”
“We’ve been especially impressed by President David Winter and his vision for what a Christian college should be, and we’re pleased with his leadership in taking Westmont in that direction,” Steve adds.
Serving on the Parents Council won’t be the first time the Whites have volunteered at Westmont. Five years ago, Steve helped raise money to fund a scholarship named for the late business professor Ira Rapson.
“We both believe in supporting Westmont, so it’s easy to present that opportunity to others,” Steve observes.
“We had such a positive college experience, and I really benefited from financial aid,” Sharon explains.
“It’s a privilege to help others get the same assistance.”
As Parents Council members, they will participate in fund-raising drives for parents, but they are also concerned about alumni giving. “The statistics on alumni giving just don’t make sense,” Steve says.
“We should be doing better.”
“We like being involved where our kids are,” Steve continues. “And our hearts are with Westmont.”