A Generation Apart, Kerry ’76 and Alex ’08 Compare Notes on Westmont
Alex Malliaris ’08 and her mother laugh about the bathrooms in Clark. Kerry Gibson Malliaris says they haven’t changed a bit since she graduated in 1976. The women enjoy comparing notes about their experiences as Clark residents and Westmont students.
Alex chose Westmont because it felt like home — she visited campus over the years when Kerry returned for reunions. “I love Homecoming,” Kerry says. “It’s wonderful to see people and find out what’s happened in their lives since college.”
Mother and daughter joined in two alumni trips to the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. “It’s fun to see the pride in Westmont and to be part of a big family,” Alex says. “The range of ages made it rich.”
Both agree that Westmont is challenging academically. Kerry majored in economic and business because it was practical and versatile. “The curriculum was stretching,” she says. “The teachers were wonderful and invested time in us after class.”
“Being exposed to a broader range of ideas has caused me to ask a lot of questions,” says Alex, a communication studies major. At her Christian high school, the teachers presented the same point of view. But at Westmont, the faculty have differing perspectives despite the fact that they are all Christians. “They keep us so busy with schoolwork that sometimes it’s hard to keep my priorities in order,” she says. For her, God is number one.
Kerry and Alex are facing a different kind of challenge together. John Malliaris, Kerry’s husband and Alex’s father, suffers from throat cancer. The disease was diagnosed and treated in 2003 — and it returned last year.
The family, which includes two younger sisters, has prayed together and worked to support each other. They’ve taken a cruise, visited Westmont, and looked forward to a high school graduation.
“Good friends have come alongside us for months and months, offering practical help, praying with us, giving advice,” Kerry says. “They’ve enriched us. You can’t go through this kind of thing in isolation — you need a community around you.”
The biggest difficulty has been making medical decisions as some treatments cause life-altering changes. “There are moral implications to these choices,” Kerry says. “Part of the value of Westmont is developing a grid by which to evaluate these kinds of decisions. That’s exactly why you go to a place like Westmont. Doctors generally don’t have a biblical framework, and it’s important to understand that. And you have to be able to explain to them why you are making the decision you are making.”
Through Westmont’s Urban Program, Alex is a chaplain at San Francisco General Hospital. At first, she resisted this internship because it was too good a fit for her — she was too familiar with hospitals. But once she started, she realized it was the right thing to do, and it has stretched her. She has developed a deep affection for her patients, especially the homeless men. “It has confirmed my love for encouraging people,” she says. “Previously I had only loved people who were like me and had loved me first.”
Meanwhile, Kerry continues to serve as vice president and client manager for premier banking at Bank of America in Pleasanton, where she has been for 28 years. She offers full financial services to businesses and people with wealth. Her job is integrating often fragmented financial affairs, and she says a liberal arts education has been a tremendous foundation for her work as a banker.
The women treasure their family time, giving thanks for every day. And they appreciate the way Westmont has brought them closer.