A Free Spirit Finds a Voice

As Horizon editor in 1971-1972, Jerry Jamison ’73 became well acquainted with Westmont administrators. “They called me into their offices all the time when we put in articles that got us into trouble,” he says. Under his leadership, the student newspaper appeared twice a week and sold enough ads to turn a profit. With carefully cultivated inside information, the staff broke stories such as Lyle Hillegas’ appointment as president and embezzlement by a college employee. Editorials ran on the first page criticizing the trustees, personnel decisions, the code of conduct and mandatory chapel. The generational conflicts that exploded in violence on some campuses played out within the pages of the paper.

“I had a great experience at Westmont — I loved my time there,” Jerry says. “I grew up in the church but had a life-changing experience midway through college that deepened my faith. I battled with the school night and day, I was a rebel at every level, but I experienced things in my heart that changed me. We were free spirits — we didn’t want to do what we were told. Westmont was ahead of the curve in allowing students a voice at that time.”

Unable to get a room on campus, Jerry lived in the Horizon office for a semester, sleeping on an old mattress he found in a field. “It was a crazy, goofy, wild time,” he says. He majored in sociology because professors in the department reached out to him; he even co-wrote “The Gay Church” with Ron Enroth. But when he confessed in a senior chapel to participating in some of the more notorious pranks on campus, the entire faculty met to decide if he should be allowed to graduate. They censured him, but he got his degree.

Jerry then moved into a Christian commune to minister to 35 former hippies and drug addicts. Pooling their modest resources never succeeded in lifting the residents out of poverty. When the group disbanded after several years, Jerry had a wife and child to support and no money. He got a minimum-wage job in a print shop, and his writing and graphic arts skills begin to emerge there. Taking on free-lance design work, Jerry held his next position as a copywriter for a bank only until he could start his own advertising company.

Today Jamison Advertising Group provides creative services for Fortune 500 companies and clients like Rick Warren; JAG designed the campaign that launched “The Purpose-Driven Life.” The small firm is based in Chula Vista, Calif., but most employees live in other states. Jerry has devised innovative ways for his dispersed staff to work together, using geography to his advantage when designers on the East Coast start a project and pass it on to West Coast colleagues for completion. Samples of the company’s work appear at www.jaghq.com.

While he succeeded professionally, Jerry suffered a personal setback when his wife left him and their two teenage children. “I was devastated,” he says. “I had failed at the one thing I considered truly important.” The divorce nearly destroyed his company as well, but he slowly rebuilt the business and his life with the support of his wife, Karen, whom he met in a divorce recovery group.

Still a free spirit, Jerry helps clients find and express their voice in meaningful ways. He also provides marketing advice to churches and Christian organizations through MinistryGrowers.com, which he created. In June 2007, he received an award at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast for his work with Esperanza USA, a large Hispanic ministries association. The former firebrand relished sharing a podium with President George Bush and Senators Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.

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