Westmont Magazine A Family Tradition
David Eaton, a longtime trustee, is the only member of his family who never attended Westmont. His wife, Carol Wheeler Eaton ’58, spent two years on campus before joining David at Wheaton College in Illinois, and all four of their children graduated from Westmont. In addition, Carol’s father, Clarence Wheeler, served on the board of trustees, and her brother, Gerald ’56, is also an alumnus.
David began serving as a college trustee in 1979 and has chaired the planning and academic committees. He now participates on the planning and development committees.
“I’m very enthusiastic about Westmont, which occupies a unique niche in undergraduate education,” David notes. “It is truly a liberal arts college, but one with a very strong Christian emphasis. All the faculty, administrators, and staff members are committed to evangelical Christian values.
“In the midst of all that, Westmont gives great freedom to students, which allows them to make their own personal choices about their lives,” he continues. “This freedom is very important to their growth and development.
“Westmont has also emphasized a quality academic program that has attracted an outstanding faculty and quality students,” David adds. “This creates a wonderful academic environment where learning can truly take place.
“At the same time, the college emphasizes student development and competencies such as leadership skills. When you put all this together, you get a unique program. No other school quite accomplishes the same thing.”
David, who has been involved in real estate development over the years, also invests in and operates a variety of businesses. Although he graduated from Stanford Law School and practiced as an attorney for five years, he changed careers when he realized his clients were having more fun. Sports are more than an avocation for him: he’s a general partner of the Phoenix Suns, an NBA franchise, and the Arizona Diamondbacks, a National League expansion team.
Carol operates Eaton Designs, which has manufactured custom-designed rugs since 1987. Alisal Ranch in Solvang, Calif., has purchased three of her creations, which are not sold through stores. Originally, the rugs were made in Haiti, but the 1992 coup forced the Eatons to relocate their plant to Phoenix.
Before her children were born, Carol worked on Young Life staff and taught sixth grade. In later years, she started Fuller Theological Seminary’s extension program in Phoenix and earned an M.A. in theology there. Actively involved in adult education as a lay leader at her church, she served as interim pastor for adult education for six months while the regular pastor was on sabbatical.
Two of the Eatons’ sons, David Jr. ’85 and Douglas ’89 own a business in Phoenix that employs 125 people and converts vans for people with disabilities. Christopher ’94 serves as area director for Young Life in Phoenix. Both David and Carol have been actively involved in this ministry over the years, and Carol currently serves on the national board. Leslie Eaton Vance ’84 lives with her husband, Mitch, and their three children in Newport Beach, Calif.
As a member of the development committee, David considers the next few years critical for Westmont. “It’s vitally important to support the College, which is relatively young and hasn’t completed its campus or built the endowment it needs,” he notes. “As a result, it’s a lot more tuition-driven than it should be. It’s crucial to complete the campus and grow the endowment as quickly as possible so Westmont can sustain the quality it has attained.”