Throughout their marriage, Andy and Janna Mori have worked together to make things grow. As gardeners, they helped to cultivate the family nursery and raised and canned their own vegetables. As parents, they encourage their children to develop in every area of life.
Finding the right environment for such growth is important, they believe. Rachel, the oldest of their three children, attends UC Davis where she majors in environmental policy analysis and planning and participates in InterVaristy Fellowship.
“Rachel found a community at Davis because she sought out opportunities and made it happen,” Janna says.
When younger sister Jodie enrolled at the University of the Pacific, she didn’t find it conducive to growth and left after a semester. She wanted a smaller school closer to home that offered more ways to be involved.
Much to her surprise, Jodie found the answer at Westmont, where her mother has worked for the past nine years.
While she can pursue her interest in dentistry by majoring in biology, Jodie has added an art minor to increase her options. Meeting other students on campus from mixed racial backgrounds has led to wonderful new friendships.
Janna has seen Westmont through a new lens. “I knew that faculty got involved with students, but it impressed me when Jodie told me how approachable her professors were,” she says. “They do care about students.”
“Jodie got excited about school for the first time in her life,” Andy says. “In a short span of time, she made a lot of good friends. She is already talking about going to Potter’s Clay next year as part of the dental team and participating in an overseas program.”
“Andy and I are thrilled about these programs because we know she will not only grow intellectually, but emotionally and spiritually as well,” Janna says. “This holistic educational approach is very important to us.”
“Westmont is so unique; the entire campus is a community,” she adds.
The Mori family learned a lot about community in 2003 when Andy and Nathaniel survived a devastating automobile accident. Nathaniel suffered minor injuries, but Andy spent five days in the intensive care unit. Although he has recovered enough to return to work, he faces some permanent disabilities.
Nathaniel remained conscious after the collision and thought his father had been killed. “My childhood ended that day,” he says. He is a freshman in high school.
The experience drew the family together. Rachel took a quarter off from school and came home to help Janna care for Andy. Jodie learned how to give him daily shots. “I feel closer to my children now,” Andy says.
“After the accident, our families, Westmont and our church were God in the flesh for us,” Janna says. “They brought meals, visited us, wrote cards, sent flowers, made phone calls and prayed a lot. This support made it easy for me to believe and say, ‘In the midst of the hard things, God is still good.’
“As much as you have faith in God to take care of you, we are still human and have to deal with tiredness and pain. Andy knows he is disabled at some level; he has accepted that reality and has moved on with his life.”
Andy’s grandfather came to Santa Barbara 100 years ago and grew freesia bulbs; the family has been involved in horticulture ever since. Andy owned Katashi Nursery, which his father and uncle started, until he sold the business in 2001. Now he supervises the grounds and landscaping at the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel.
Janna managed student and alumni employment at Westmont before becoming director of donor services in 2003. She’s thankful her family belongs to the campus community.