by Teri Bradford Rouse ’77, Senior Director of Alumni and Parent Relations
I enrolled at Westmont because an alumna took me under her wing when I was a lost junior high kid. This 1962 graduate had a passion for English and junior high students, and she led me and many others to the Lord.
Fast forward 11 years: I was taking a great European trek with a friend. On the eve of my birthday, we sought shelter in Heidelberg at a Campus Crusade facility. A woman who seemed old to me bunked across the hall from us. During a casual conversation with her, I made a surprising discovery: Thelma was one of the first students to graduate from Westmont, and she had dedicated her life to service on the mission field. We were decades apart but face to face, bound by our nourishing mother, our alma mater.
In 1991, my husband and I were co-leading the Westmont Europe Semester and enjoying a wonderful concert in Salzburg. While standing in line during the break, a couple came up to us and asked, “Do you happen to be with Westmont students?” They were alums from my class and spotted us across the concert hall. They just knew.
These chance encounters involved a kind of knowing, a special brand of connection that wordlessly covers a breadth of territory. This is the community of Westmont alumni, small but mighty, nearly 20,000 strong around the globe. I’m sure many alumni could tell stories similar to mine. It’s a tale that resonates deep in our souls because we are Westmont.
For most of us, Westmont is no longer our primary community, but we know it has transformed us. Our study and work and spiritual growth and life together have altered fundamentally because of our time at Westmont. This was the vision of Ruth Kerr and our founders, and it has served as a springboard, a guiding light, to work and do His good pleasure in the world. Rooted in the cause of Christ and his high calling, Westmont has helped us think beyond conventional boundaries, strive for excellence in all we do, and embed the message of the Gospel in ways that matter to our particular communities and in our specific callings.
We are a diverse group. We are not the same people we were when we graduated. Life has happened. We have walked many roads since leaving Westmont. Yet we are still a community, bound together not only by nostalgia and shared experience but by our amazing God and by this place called Westmont.
Westmont has given us the vision and tools to change the world, whether in our families, our neighborhoods, the businesses and organizations we have established, or our workplaces. Westmont has put us on the road to becoming thoughtful scholars, grateful servants and faithful leaders.
The Westmont community has the privilege of celebrating this diversity of gifts, acknowledging these successes, by honoring 75 distinguished alums as part of our 75th anniversary celebration. These men and women may not have succeeded in ways the world defines, although in many cases the world recognizes and sees what they have done. We look at success the way Mother Teresa did when she said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” I think that characterizes all Westmont graduates who seek to parlay their Westmont experience and talents into good for the world.
The 75 alumni represent many more we could not recognize but who are also deserving. We are nearly 20,000 strong, so I like to imagine the 75 each represents 266.6 other alums! The choosing was not easy. Our committee solicited faculty, staff and administrative input, vetted the list, decided to omit trustees and current faculty, and did our best to recognize individuals in a broad range of professions, disciplines, ethnicity and gender. These alumni, who’ve made a mark in all sectors, all spheres of society, represent a thumbnail of our community. They are:
Artists who work in a variety of mediums and are gaining world acclaim.
Architects whose business models involve principles of community they learned at Westmont.
Authors whose writings include deep theological works, biblical scholarship, personal development, marriage and family, history, church training and curricula, and editors of significant publications like Books and Culture and medical journals.
Doctors in emergency medicine, an Air Force flight surgeon, a leading expert in male infertility, medical ethicists, medical sociologists, leaders in the health care industry, and a scientist working on ultra-fast laser systems to diagnose cancer free of human error.
Leaders in education on all levels, from presidents of seminaries to principals of Title 1 elementary schools.
Missionaries who have dedicated their lives to places like Ethiopia, set up private schools that have educated hundreds of thousands of kids, offered post-earthquake assistance in Japan through creating a network of churches committed to compassionate ministry and relief assistance, and founded an organization to train elders for a Navajo reservation in Arizona.
Government and political leaders including state senators and assemblywomen, the assistant to the speaker of the House, the information technology director of Homeland Security, and a former special assistant to the president and director of faith-based initiatives in the Bush administration.
Businessmen and women who have used their success to develop leaders within their ranks, push for their companies to leverage their influence to promote food security in Africa, and provide thoughtful service and money management to individuals with capacity.
Alumni who have dedicated their lives to the inner-city, moving into neighborhoods and establishing urban family centers helping at-risk kids with academics, literacy and leadership development.
Episcopal priests influenced by the civil rights movement who have set up diocesan schools for inner-city African-American boys.
Probation officers turned advocates for formerly incarcerated youth.
Lawyers who have used their skills for legal clinics serving the homeless.
A recent college graduate who started a non-profit that provides scholarships to college kids in South Africa.
Alumni dedicated to eliminating the tragedy of human trafficking.
I could go on and on. For every one honored there are hundreds more. Our hearts are full, and we are proud and humbled by their good works. We express our sincere gratitude for them and for all our alumni.
Our 75th anniversary and Homecoming wasn’t only about nostalgia or past and present accomplishments. We also claim the future. It is my hope and vision that Westmont will be a continuing source of learning, encouragement and professional connection for our alumni and that we will bless generations to come, walking confidently into the future together as the community we call Westmont.
This article is based on Teri’s presentation at the 75th Anniversary Gala Oct. 27, 2012. To watch a video of her and other speakers at the event and to read more about the 75 distinguished alumni, see the college’s anniversary page.