A Father Observes the Parenting Skills of Some Westmont Alumni
From the top of Half Dome, John Eby watched the bright August sun set over Yosemite Valley, the shadows swallowing trees and meadows far below. He recalls the moment vividly because he shared it with his son, John Eby ’88, and his 11-year-old granddaughter, Hannah — and with John’s friends Phil Sider ’87 and Tony DeRose ’88. Last summer, the five completed a 27-mile trek from Toulumne Meadow to Cathedral Lakes and into Yosemite Valley. Two other alumni and their daughters joined them part of the way, Pete Hansen ’87 and Hayley, 10, and Chris Scherle ’87 and Carolynn, 7.
“It was exciting to be with such a great group of Westmont grads,” John says. “I witnessed some great parenting, solid leadership, and deep commitment to Christ. I believe those qualities were developed or at least enhanced by their association with Westmont, and I am impressed with the deep friendships that began there that have bonded these guys together for all these years!”
Phil and Tony have been backpacking with friends from Westmont for more than 10 years — the Ebys hiked with them in 1998, and Phil’s father, English professor John Sider, joined them for that trek. But last August was the first time the group included children. Watching the experienced hikers slow their pace and alter their usual style to accommodate the girls impressed the elder Eby. Each of the dads carried extra weight to help their daughters, and they patiently talked the girls through the steep, rocky drop-offs and narrow spots.
“The dads were giving their daughters two of the things that are most important in parenting: time and affection wrapped in patience and caring education,” John says. “I remember Parents Day when the president said that Westmont saw its primary role as training students in leadership and decision-making skills. As I watched these Westmont graduates relate to each other and to the three girls, I thought about that speech and thanked God that Westmont had that kind of vision.”
John’s daughter, Mona Eby Chicks ’91 also graduated from Westmont. “Both our kids had a tremendous time there,” John says. “The fact that they were being trained for leadership, not jobs, really showed up. Westmont provided excellent scholarship and academics, and professors had a very clear Christian testimony. Our kids came away being blessed by asking questions, not shut down by narrow doctrinal thinking. They felt free to grow in their relationship with the Lord and also stretch their minds without feeling that they would get in trouble if they stretched too far. I like to see students grow academically and intellectually in a setting where Christ is honored.”
A retired American Baptist pastor, the elder John continues preaching at a variety of churches in Porterville, Calif., where he lives with his wife, Sherrie, a retired teacher. He spent his career serving in agricultural communities and worked closely with the local ministerial association. As chair of Love in the Name of Christ, he helps coordinate immediate assistance to those in need. This winter, the group is helping growers and farm workers devastated by a prolonged freeze.
After earning a doctorate in medieval history at the University of Washington, the younger John teaches at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, where he heads up the honors program. He and his wife, Kristen Riley Eby ’88, have two daughters. Kristen received a master’s degree in music from the University of Oregon and plays the harp and piano. Mona Chicks, an ordained American Baptist minister who graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary, lives with her husband, David, and their son in Redmond, Wash.
Phil Sider works for REI and lives in Carlsbad, Calif., with his wife, Sonya Richardson Sider ’86. A pilot for FedEx, Pete Hansen and his family live in Collierville, Tenn. Tony DeRose is a high school music teacher in San Jose, Calif., and Chris and his wife, Becky Garrett Scherle ’90, own a promotional products business and live in Solvang, Calif. “Forming friendships and nurturing them through the years is one of the blessings of a small college,” John says. “These guys didn’t all know each other, but the Westmont commonality has brought them together.”