after leaving the marine corps, charles hampton ’09 faces the rigors of academic life and westmont’s liberal arts curriculum
Charles Hampton ’09 willingly embraced the tough commitment of serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Longing for the intimacy of a tight-knit group of like-minded individuals, he joined the Marines with high expectations.
But after five years that included embassy duty in South Africa and a stint in Saudi Arabia, he realized he wasn’t satisfied. “I kept hoping to meet people I could respect and enjoy working with,” he says. “Even in Saudi Arabia, where people wanted to kill you, I didn’t feel the solidarity and camaraderie with my fellow Marines that I had hoped for.”
He returned to Los Angeles wondering what he should do with his life. After two years of study at Pasadena City College, he decided to complete his bachelor’s degree at a Christian college — but none of those in the Los Angeles area seemed to be the right choice.
His aunt, who lives in Goleta, told him she was impressed by what she read in the local paper about Westmont. She had met some of the students at a mall one day and was amazed when they offered their sold-out movie tickets to others. She told him, “Westmont students act the way you expect Christians to act.” He was surprised by this favorable review from his aunt, who is not a Christian, and thought the college was worth checking out.
It happened to be Spring Sing on the day that Charles visited campus. As he watched and interacted with students practicing outside, he realized he liked the genuine, enthusiastic atmosphere he encountered. He was actually meeting people who he thought could offer that commitment and tight-knit community he had sought in the military.
That fall Charles began his junior year by living in the transfer section of Clark Halls, where he experienced a genuine sense of community. “These guys were comfortable to be with. We sat together in chapel and did fun things together.”
For the first time in his life, Charles found the classroom challenging. “This whole liberal arts experience has opened up a new world,” he says. “No matter what classes I take — Old Testament, astronomy, world Christianity or early modern Europe — they all seem to relate. It’s actually fun to see how all my classes come together.”
A history major, Charles has appreciated the quality of scholarship at Westmont. “I’m amazed at the intellect of my professors and impressed with all they bring to the classroom,” he says. Those experiences have created a love for history that will likely lead him to teach U.S. history in high school.
A wonderful complication entered his life just before he transferred to Westmont. Through his church group in San Gabriel, Charles met Elizabeth. They didn’t know each other well, so they agreed to play the same online video game to become better acquainted. Before long they realized they wanted to seriously pursue a relationship. He proposed to her in Westmont’s prayer chapel, and they were married last summer.
Since Elizabeth is earning a nurse practitioner degree at Azusa Pacific University, the couple struggled to decide where to live. Knowing how much he would miss his Westmont friends and classes, Elizabeth encouraged him to stay and graduate. They moved to Glendale to make the commute manageable for both of them. But traveling back and forth two to three days a week hasn’t been easy. The drive is tiring, and he has less time to spend studying or with his wife and friends.
In spite of it all, Charles is glad he’s completing his degree at Westmont. For this former Marine, getting through tough times is nothing new.