Marian Lorenz Groff ’59 lost her home of 46 years in the Tea Fire last fall. “It exploded like a volcano on the hillside behind our house,” she says. “We had less than an hour to evacuate.” She and her husband, Jerry, left behind countless heirlooms: rings that belonged to their mothers, hand-painted china, family photos. But they’re rebuild-ing on the same site. “We’ve lived with the threat of fire for many years, having escaped four of them,” Marian says. “My two children grew up there, and it’s still our home.”
Fellow members at Santa Barbara Community Church donated clothing and household goods to help the couple recover. “We’ve been overwhelmed by love, generos-ity, cards and phone calls from friends at church and Westmont,” Marian says.
In May, she celebrates her 50th reunion and marches at Commencement as a Golden Warrior. “I loved my years at Westmont,” Marian says. “I’m proud to be a graduate.” She participated in the first summer missions trip, when students went to Hawaii to work with churches and Youth for Christ. “That experience gave me a heart for missions,” she says. For eight years, she has joined Jerry as a volunteer with Potter’s Clay. He’s an optometrist who’s traveled to Mexico with Westmont students for 11 years to provide free eye exams and pass out donated glasses.
An education major, Marian spent 20 years teaching at Cold Spring School. She also helped start a preschool for low-income families in Santa Barbara. Her son, Michael Thompson ’88, went to Westmont, as did Marian’s sister and two nieces. Michael works as an engineer in Oxnard, Calif.
Jerry didn’t attend Westmont, but he shares Marian’s enthusiasm for the college, being “groffted in.” The Groffs contribute to the Westmont Annual Fund and belong to the President’s Associates. They’ve also provided for the college in their estate plan, making them Wallace Emerson Society members. “We want to make Westmont available to all students,” they say.
Shortly after the fire, the couple took advantage of a new law to roll over part of their IRA to the college. Despite the need to rebuild their lives, their commitment to Westmont endures. “We know God will provide for us,” they say. “We want Westmont’s legacy and impact to continue.”