La Sierra alums remember caring faculty, friendships
April 27, 2012
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) Students at large universities might be intimidated over a summons to speak with the school’s president. But things are different at La Sierra University, a closely-knit campus where its presidents also teach classes and are on a first-name basis with many students.
“I actually enjoyed being called into the president’s office for a chat,” said alum Douglas Welebir who graduated with the Class of 1962. “It is not often that a college student has the opportunity to have the president take time to gently give advice on what he sees as a career direction for abilities that he has teased out.”
La Sierra’s president at the time, William Landeen, also taught Welebir in several classes including the History of Western Civilization and English Constitutional History. The student was a history major and honors graduate who later became a civil trial lawyer in Redlands. Welebir, whose class celebrated its 50th reunion during alumni Homecoming weekend April 20-22, cited Landeen as the professor that most impacted him during his tenure at La Sierra. He described his former teacher as “one of the great influences in my life, a singularly effective communicator and teacher, inspiring, genuine, open, with great feeling for his subjects and sincere concern for his students.”
Welebir was among several La Sierra alums attending Homecoming who responded with enthusiasm when asked about the impacts of their La Sierra educations, memories forged during college and their views of alumni weekend activities.
Of Kay Kuzma’s La Sierra’s years, the most significant memory played out during her sophomore year when she decided to stay on campus for semester break and met her future husband, Jan, the alumna said. Kuzma, a La Sierra home economics graduate also holds an Ed.D. in early childhood education from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a widely known author, speaker, columnist and founder of Family Matters ministry. She works from Kauai, Hawaii where she and her husband live. Among Kuzma’s favorite La Sierra memories, “our annual celebration of April birthdays, where a carload of best friends would head down to the beach and go swimming--brrrrrrr--and eat fresh strawberry pie.”
Overall, her years at La Sierra “gave me the foundation of confidence to realize I could do anything God wanted me to do,” Kuzma said.
Alumni weekend activities began with several seminars on Friday, April 20 including honors presentations by biology and music students, a costumed presentation on Ellen White by associate religious studies professor Ginger Hanks-Harwood, a talk about new species discoveries in Southeast Asia by herpetologist Lee Grismer, an update by theology professor Bailey Gillespie on the Valuegenesis III study of Seventh-day Adventist youth, and psychology professor Leslie Martin’s presentation on “The Longevity Project,” a book she co-authored that received wide-spread media coverage last year.
Alumni attended Sabbath School and church services April 21 at La Sierra University Church where Kuzma spoke during the 9:30 a.m. service. Sabbath afternoon featured open houses at several campus locations including Brandstater Gallery, the World Museum of Natural History, the Stahl Center Museum of Culture, the Thaine B. Price Science Complex, a Bedouin hospitality tent and archaeology display at the Dining Commons.
Alumni also attended a concert by the Salcedo Sisters, Soul Church, an H.M.S. Richards Jr. Lecture by La Sierra alum Connie Vandeman Jeffrey, and a strawberry shortcake mixer followed by class reunion dinners.
The day’s activities capped with the 54th Annual Concerto Concert on Saturday evening. This year’s student concerto competition winners, Casey Hoehn, trumpet, first place, and soprano Allison Cheng who came in second, performed to a full house at Hole Memorial Auditorium. The audience of La Sierra alumni, faculty, staff and Riverside community members gave standing ovations to the students’ outstanding performances of Tomaso Albinoni’s “Concerto for Oboe in B flat Major” arranged for trumpet, and Georges Bizet’s “Carmen.” Additionally pianist Ben Tecson, winner of the Inland Empire Piano Festival, thrilled the crowd with a brilliant performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15.” The La Sierra University Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Carter accompanied the musicians and gave its own performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella Suite.”
Richard Walton, an attorney and member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences attended the concert with his father, Lewis Walton who graduated from La Sierra in 1963. “It was a world-class performance by the orchestra,” Richard Walton said. Lewis Walton added, “the music is without peer.” He commended the weekend’s activities and “good food. It was well done,” he said. Walton also recalled special memories from his time attending La Sierra University, then called La Sierra College.” “What I remember most [is] the absolute sincerity of the professors. …and the abiding conviction of the Adventist message,” he said.
Click the following links to view slide shows of alumni weekend events:
Friday Seminars: bit.ly/JmdID9
Sabbath Worship Service: on.fb.me/JmdNqk
Sabbath Afternoon Open Houses: on.fb.me/IzTXIZ
Golden Class of 1962: on.fb.me/HX8H3W
Premium Classes Dinner: on.fb.me/J5GqGm
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University