Classmates share life stories, laughter at LSU 50th reunion
March 2, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( www.lasierra.edu )The former classmates arrived at La Sierra University from regions near and far, some crossing the United States from Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. They gathered to reconnect and reminisce Southern California college days 50 years ago at their palm-tree lined alma mater, then known as La Sierra College.
Twenty-one members of La Sierra’s Class of 1959, together with 24 family members and friends, congregated Feb. 28 in the university’s Cactus Room for a 50th anniversary reunion banquet. The festivities were part of La Sierra’s Homecoming weekend.
After the evening’s dinner, each alumnus recounted his or her memories of life at La Sierra and the various paths down which they have traveled since leaving the school. They told stories of missionary life in Africa, South America, and elsewhere, their work in education, medicine, law and public service. They spoke of loss and recovery and God’s grace.
When it was Tom Seibly’s turn to talk about his college days, the retired trial court judge cut straight to the heart of the matter with a memory of the first time he saw his wife-to-be. “This area right in here is very sacred to me because in 1957, in the fall, I saw Betty right out here on this patio,” Seibly said, gesturing toward the university’s mall outside a banquet room window. “It was sort of a magic moment as far as I’m concerned.” Betty listened and smiled.
Roy R. Brown and Thomas Milford did not know each other when they became freshmen roommates at La Sierra in 1955. They both arrived from their native Jamaica. Brown was a Seventh-day Adventist who became a theology major and Milford was an Anglican who entered La Sierra’s biology program at the suggestion of a Seventh-day Adventist pastor friend in Jamaica.
“He tolerated me,” joked Milford of his four years living with Brown. During college days at La Sierra, Brown and Milford shared contracts to clean dentists’ and doctors’ offices and the college market to earn extra money.
The lifestyle of the students at La Sierra impressed the young Milford who compared their behavior to “youngsters back home who were interested in dancing,” he said. “When I came here I realized … I should adopt it [the religion] in my life.” During Bible studies Milford found the explanation of the seventh day as Sabbath to be logical. “The way it was presented it to me, I couldn’t counteract it,” he said.
Milford was baptized in 1956. His girlfriend, Gloria, arrived from Jamaica in 1957 and the two married during Milford’s junior year of college. Gloria was Catholic but had attended Seventh-day Adventist church meetings with friends in Jamaica and was familiar with the religion. After Bible studies with La Sierra German Professor Nachreiner, Gloria was also baptized at the La Sierra University Church.
After medical school, Milford became a physician in Pasadena. Currently the couple raises money for the alumni association of Northern Caribbean University in Jamaica, to aid the university and its students who attend La Sierra.
Brown and his wife, Daisy, were married in 1959 after Brown graduated with a theology degree. He attended seminary at Andrews University and engaged in missionary work in South America. He later filled various posts with the Southeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Florida, eventually serving as conference president.
Eloise Habekost, a former elementary education major, is a retired teacher, president and founding member of the Big Hearts for Little Hearts auxiliary guild at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. The guild has branches in Palm Desert and Riverside and is developing an additional guild group in Rancho Cucamonga. The organization raises money for various projects and programs at the hospital. It secured funds for a reading nook, initiated an annual gingerbread house activity and exhibit and holds a twice-yearly reading program.
During her La Sierra College days, Habekost bought chocolate éclairs every Friday for Sabbath morning breakfasts, she said. She remembers archaeology Professor Specht as one of the most influential teachers during her La Sierra tenure. “He made you believe in the Bible. He was very, very oriented in his archaeology and the Bible and I think that has made me have a steady belief in the Bible,” Habekost said.
Clarence Ing, an eye physician and surgeon is medical director of Newstart Lifestyle Programs in Weimar. He attended La Sierra between 1955 and 1959 and majored in chemistry. “My first job at LSC was washing dishes for Paul Damazo, food service director, for my freshman year. Sometimes we would help clear tables as we were waiting for the clearing crew to bring in the dishes for washing. My least favorite job, washing pots and pans when they couldn't find anyone else to do it,” Ing said.
Sylvia Null Janzen was an English major at La Sierra 50 years ago. A few years after graduation she obtained a teaching credential and taught at Terrace Hills Middle School in Grand Terrace for 17 years. She treasures the friendships forged at La Sierra and the memories made during college years.
“Clarence [Ing] and I sat next to each other at chapel and we couldn’t stop talking,” Janzen said with a laugh. “…I spent four years in paradise. I just thought this college was wonderful.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University