Westmont Magazine Parental Influence
Even though he is a busy obstetrician who delivers “God’s miracles” at all hours of the day, Marc Zepeda makes an effort to spend time with his three children. He and his wife, Susan, value the close family they have created and take their parental roles seriously. So they were delighted to hear that Westmont cross country Coach Russell Smelley was filling in for them with their daughter, Kelli, a first-year Westmont student.
“We laughed when Kelli told us Coach Smelley had grilled her boyfriend,” Marc says. “This is a great coach and a good role model for our daughter. If I can’t be at Westmont, I want him to be her dad and be there for her.”
Marc’s career has inspired his two sons to become doctors. After graduating from medical school, Michael plans to be a missionary doctor. Christopher will begin the pre-med program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles next year.
Kelli also wants to meet people’s physical needs, but she has chosen a different path. Interested in helping special-needs children, she is majoring in kinesiology and plans to become a speech pathologist.
“Kelli watched one of my friends deal in a very loving way with her disabled son, taking him with her wherever she went,” Susan explains. “This woman became a mentor for Kelli and inspired her to volunteer with the Special Olympics and with special-needs adults. Such work requires special gifts, and we have seen those gifts develop in Kelli.”
When choosing a college, Kelli visited kinesiology professors and asked about their physical therapy programs. Most talked about sports medicine, which doesn’t interest her. But at Westmont, the professor began with opportunities to work with disabled children, and Kelli knew she had found the right place. In Santa Barbara, she has become involved at the Braille Institute and Hillside House, a home for children with cerebral palsy.
Susan’s example as a full-time mother has also influenced Kelli. After earning a degree in biological sciences at UC Irvine, Susan decided to stay home when her children were born. Later, as they grew up, she started working in Marc’s office, doing bookkeeping.
“When Kelli thought about different careers, she asked how easy it was to be a mom with each job,” Susan notes. “Talking to a female obstetrician who struggles to balance work and kids made a big impression on her.”
A longtime runner who participated in high school sports, Kelli also competes with Westmont’s nationally ranked cross country and track teams. She began joining Marc at 4 a.m. for two-hour work-outs when she was in sixth grade, and that dedication to exercise has persisted. Michael and Christopher are also runners, and they enjoy scuba diving with Marc. Kelli doesn’t dive, but she competes in Latin dancing with him, and they even won a father-daughter dance contest.
Members of Eastside Christian Church in Fullerton, Calif., Marc and Susan have participated in a number of short-term mission programs. They travel to Ensenada to do outreach work there, with Marc providing medical services. When she was 16, Kelli accompanied him to India and worked in a hospital at the base of the Himalayas. Marc was proud when she stepped in to assist during surgery after a medical student passed out.
Usually Marc teaches adult Sunday school at church, but he and Susan recently took on 30 kindergartners. “Those kids understand a lot, so we talk to them straight — we never talk down to them. It’s important to encourage children to love the Lord.”
The Zepedas have raised their own children this way, and they are happy that Kelli is at Westmont where her friends and professors will continue what they began.