Westmont Magazine Like Father, Like Daughter
Paul Hoffman ’77 readily admits that his classmates from Westmont may not remember him by name, and, after 25 years, probably won’t recognize him by face either. But he is pretty confident that they will remember him as the guy who invented the Christian fish car emblem.
Now that millions of emblems have been sold worldwide, he laughs about it. “My junior year my best friend and I came up with this alternative to bumper stickers. We went door-to-door to sell these things. If only we had a nickel for each one, right?”
For Hoffman, a lawyer in Orange County, and his wife, Lynn, a nurse at a children’s hospital, watching their daughter, Ruthi ’02, go through Westmont has been an absolute joy. “Her experience was nothing short of spectacular,” he explains. “I don’t know how someone could have enjoyed college more.”
Paul admits that when Ruthi was in high school, he and Lynn knew it would be difficult to find the means to pay the cost of tuition at Westmont. But a lunch with then-President David Winter changed Paul’s mind.
“Dr. Winter asked me a very simple question. He told me to look back at my time at Westmont and put a price on it. He asked if I would be willing to trade the experiences I had there for any amount of money. At that moment I decided that we would find a way.”
The father-daughter Westmont connection has provided some fun moments for Paul and Ruthi, especially during the semester when she took Robert Gundry’s New Testament class. She earned some family bragging rights when she got an “A” in the class, besting her father’s “B” in the same class, some 25 years earlier.
Ruthi, who was named the communication studies “Top Senior,” proved to be an accomplished debater. During her first and sophomore years, she was a winner in the Westmont debate tournament. She plans to go into an international Christian organization like World Vision. Paul and Lynn consider this career choice one of the benefits of attending Westmont. During her college years, Ruthi’s vision for her life shifted from a vague aspiration to make her mark to a focused desire to serve God through Christian service.
“I couldn’t be more proud of her,” Paul says. “She came into Westmont more prepared to succeed than I was at that age, but to watch her grow in faith and friendships has been such a blessing.”
Chrome fish notwithstanding, Hoffman may be most recognized as co-editor of “Why I Am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe.” Published in 2001 by Baker Books, the 300-page book is a collection of original essays by well-known scholars and apologists. The project grew out of Paul’s master’s program in apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary.
Paul’s goal was to present a fairly classic defense of the Christian faith. While he was impressed by each of the scholar’s intellectual knowledge, the biggest lesson he took away from the book was the need for an individual response to God. “There is still an unavoidable existential element to faith,” he notes. “The best we can do is knock down obstacles, but each person must still make that personal step of faith.”
As Paul and Lynn reflect on Ruthi’s experience, they agree that nothing they have ever done has represented better value than paying for their daughter’s education at Westmont. From his days peddling car emblems to the birth of his passion for apologetics, Paul found his time at Westmont rich and rewarding. But nothing compares to watching his daughter have her own college experience at such a special place. The ability to share that connection is “worth a million nickels.”