Westmont Magazine The Second Generation
Some parents don’t need a tour of campus during Orientation—they’re alums who know their way around. Did they influence their children’s choice of a college? And what do they experience as Westmont parents?
Gail Rister Donnelly ’72 remembers the day her daughter Amy came home from first grade and announced that Westmont wasn’t the only college in the world. “Wait until Daddy finds out!” she exclaimed. After that, Doug ’74 and Gail stayed out of the college selection process.
“Amy always said she didn’t want to go to Westmont—that was our college, and she wanted to find her own,” explains Doug. “So we were shocked when her choices narrowed to two: Westmont and Randolph Macon in Virginia, which has a great equestrian program. We visited Westmont the day after returning home from Virginia, and she was impressed by how much friendlier the students were. That’s how we became the parents of a Westmont freshman.”
Doug, a Santa Barbara attorney, finds it very different being a parent. “Suddenly I’ve become a constituent, and I don’t feel part of the school like I do at Homecoming,” he says.
Gail, who works as an R. N. to help pay college costs, recounts the strangeness of seeing her daughter with other, unknown students at a basketball game. “But it has been fun to watch her make new friends,” Gail notes.
Although her parents worried about Westmont being so close to home, Amy is happy with her choice. “She says it’s where she belongs,” Gail relates. “She’s never been so stretched intellectually, and she loves the challenge of her classes and the Christian atmosphere. She is really working hard, and she just glows.”
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in Amy’s life during the last six months,” adds Doug.
Meeting their daughter’s new friends and seeing how loyal and supportive they are of each other pleases Doug and Gail. “We’re glad she’s attending Westmont. It was a wise choice for her,” he says.
Unlike Amy Donnelly, Kacy Cochran ’99 decided at a young age to go Westmont. Her parents, Jim ’64 and Tammy Upham ’71 Cochran, settled in Medford, Oregon, and first returned to campus when Kacy was eight. They remember showing her around and telling her stories about college life. On a second visit four years later, the whole family ate in the dining commons. Kacy especially enjoyed talking with the students who came up and introduced themselves.
“She never really showed interest in any other schools,” Tammy recalls. “To please her father, she half-heartedly looked into a few. In fact, Westmont was the only college we ever talked about or took her to see.”
After working as a building contractor for 23 years, Jim designed and built an 18-hole golf course, Stone Ridge Golf Club, which he opened in 1995. That first summer, the whole family worked in the new business. “At the time, it would have been easier to send her to a less expensive school,” Jim notes. “I do feel poorer as a parent than I did as an alum!”
Now in her third year at Westmont, Kacy is a biology and chemistry double major in the pre-med program. Her difficult courses keep her busy.
Tammy finds it very nostalgic to have a daughter at Westmont. “I can identify with her experiences so much,” she explains. “Knowing the campus as I do makes it easier to have her so far away. I can imagine the smell of the fog, the study sessions at Carrows, the deep friendships—they touch chords of remembrance.”
Jim and Tammy have dutifully attended Parents Weekend and the ’90s version of Spring Sing. But like many alums, they prefer the performances they remember as students.
“The high level of spiritual commitment on campus today has impressed us,” Tammy notes. “We’re thrilled that Kacy has chosen to participate in retreats and other programs. It’s great to have our daughter at a college where Christian really means Christian.”