A 13,000 Mile Gift
Alumni Go the Distance
by Tim Hester
We had just returned from a two month, 13,000-mile road trip spent in service to our alma mater, when my wife Karla and I were posed this question:
“What motivated you both to give so much of your time and resources to Christendom College?”
On the surface, it’s a simple question. Most people we knew were curious about our motivation. But the answer is more complex than simply, “We love Christendom!” Then again, the road trip was more complex than simply putting a ton of miles on the family car and sightseeing.
We owe an enormous debt to Christendom College. This is ironically fitting for a school that prides itself on the non-acceptance of federal funds. The debt we owe is a debt of gratitude.
It all goes back to when as a 17-year-old man from Newark, New Jersey, I came to Front Royal as three of my fifteen siblings had in the years prior. My first evening on campus, I met Karla Kuykendall, a beautiful young woman from Irving, Texas. Like me, she came to Front Royal because she knew that Christendom College was where her intellectual and spiritual formation would continue and where her future would be shaped. The thing for both of us was that we knew what Christendom represented. Christendom represents Christ, Who IS Truth and Beauty and Freedom.
More for homesickness than anything else, I was only able to stay for one semester at Christendom. In those four months, though, I came to know Karla well enough to respect that she was a woman of deep faith, of incredible talent, and of goodness of soul. She was everyone’s friend, and with good reason. The woman could do anything. But what I saw was her faith.
Ten years later, when Karla and I met for the second time, it was at a gathering of many Christendom alumni. Instantly, I recalled this woman and I knew who she was. I knew her because I knew Christendom. I knew the love of the Catholic faith and the desire to live God’s Will that she carries because I knew Christendom. I knew her formation was solid because I knew Christendom. I knew her capacity to think and to love are deep and true because I knew Christendom. When I say I met my wife in college I really do mean that Christendom College was part of God’s plan to bring us together. Knowing the atmosphere in which Karla spent those four years meant I knew who she was and I loved her for that and I loved her from that moment on.
Over the past decade I have grown with Karla and our two children. She continues to influence me always to lead our family with Christ’s love for the Church. What I love most of all about her is a sense of devotion she learned at Christendom. From that, I draw strength as a husband and father. Because of her, I know that our two children will always be taught to seek the Truth.
Something else that I love about my wife is her refusal to say “no” when someone needs her talents or support. So, in October, it came as no surprise that she agreed to chair the college’s newly formed Alumni Advisory Council.
Karla’s intense desire to help Christendom succeed soon led to the Council’s first major initiative in this past summer’s Alumni Grill’n & Chill’n Tour. The tour would see our family on a transcontinental drive to unite Christendom alumni across the nation.
Spending over two months jammed in a car with our family of four and hundreds of Christendom t-shirts might sound a little crazy. But I know Karla, and I know her love for Christendom, and she knows my thankfulness to that school for bringing us together and helping to make her who she is.
But, it’s not just that. We both deeply believe in Christendom College. Amidst the tyranny of relativism and my daily dealings with the angry arrogance of ignorance—I am a high school Theology teacher, after all—I take comfort in knowing that Christendom still stands firm, still holds to Warren Carroll’s vision of a place where the five most important words, “Truth exists. The Incarnation happened,” will never go dim. And for that reason alone, Karla and I were happy to assist. It’s the same reason why we’ve been happy to make Christendom the beneficiary of our charitable giving for the past nine years and why we jumped at the opportunity to make a gift to the Chapel.
Our summer tour ultimately took us on a 13,000-mile jaunt across the country and back again to host barbecues and meet alumni in 22 cities all over the United States and even Canada. We met hundreds of people who had called Christendom College home at some point. There were alums from the late 1970’s all the way to current students. If one could see them all, as I did, as one amalgamated face on a canvas stretching from Atlantic to Pacific, here is what you would see: the face of Christ. The graduates and almost-graduates of Christendom College represent the fulfillment of that commitment to Truth. These are the men and women who have taken the seeds of intellectual beauty and transplanted them in New Hampshire, Indiana, and California so that they might bloom in new gardens and spread the glory of God’s kingdom on earth. These alums are carrying the Gospel from Nova Scotia to North Carolina, from Memphis to Minneapolis, and from San Francisco to San Antonio. They are truly “building” Christendom. How could we not go to them to say thank you? Our trip was as much about us showing our gratitude to our fellow alumni as it was about bringing them together. On top of it all, we had the time of our lives doing it!
I knew I needed to be a part of this trip as surely as I believe the world needs Christendom College. There simply is no other place like it. That thought went through my mind again and again this summer as I came to know a thousand new friends. Christendom brought us all together. Some debts, I suppose, can never fully be repaid.