When she sent her only child to Westmont last year, Myrtle Luning didn’t realize she had a more difficult and traumatic parting just ahead. A few months later, her husband, Eugene Sr., died unexpectedly during heart surgery.
“We have experienced such an outpouring of support from people at Westmont,” she recalls. “Everyone was so good to my son, Eugene. Joyce Luy in the admissions office invited him to dinner, and the Ludwick family threw a big birthday party for him. Alumnus Lindsay Parton ’75 was a great help to Eugene.
“I felt calm about sending him back to school because the community was so caring. The kindness of faculty and friends helped him to complete the semester successfully.”
Myrtle admits she wasn’t happy when Eugene first considered going to Westmont, so far away from her home in St. Louis, Mo.
“My heart sank” she says. “Then we visited campus, and although it rained every day, the people were wonderful.”
Coming for orientation last summer further eased her concern. “Every possible question was answered, and the administrators and professors were so approachable. Saying good-bye was much less traumatic than I had imagined.”
Myrtle also enjoyed the humor — and seriousness — of pledging to send cookies and otherwise support her son. Meeting other Westmont parents was fun, and she left with a better understanding of the value of a liberal arts education.
Eugene got involved quickly. Elected president of his class during his first semester, he is concertmaster of the student orchestra. He helped start a Page Wednesday Worship Night and will serve as a resident assistant, an unusual achievement for a sophomore.
With the goal of becoming a youth pastor, Eugene is majoring in religious studies. Last summer, he worked as a counselor-in-training at Kanakuk-Kanakomo Kamps, a large Christian sports camp in Branson, Mo., he attended as a camper. He has also been involved in K-Life, an interdenominational ministry for youth that continues the camp’s work during the school year. He heard about Westmont from K-Life staff members who are alumni.
As a high school student, Eugene and Meagan Kinmouth, who also came to Westmont, raised $7,000 to send inner-city kids to camp. He did fund raising for leukemia research as well. Captain of his high school water polo team and a swimmer and volleyball player, he helped handicapped kids ski and ride horses.
Eugene learned volunteerism from his parents. His father, who was CEO of a pharmaceutical company, served on the boards of St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Maryville University, the St. Louis Symphony Music School, and several banks.
Myrtle has agreed to join the Westmont Parents Council and is a new member of the K-Life board. She volunteers as a nurse at Kanakuk each summer. Before she married, she earned a nursing degree and did mission work in a mud-hut hospital in Haiti. Later she spent two years nursing in Zambia and taught in a teaching hospital in London.
She is an active member of Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church and has served on the church school board, taught Sunday School, led Pioneer Girls, and played hand bells. A longtime horseback rider and skier, she has also used these skills in outreach programs.
Although she misses her son and is adjusting to her new single life, she knows Eugene is where he should be. “I have no greater joy than knowing my son is walking with the Lord,” she says.