Connections: A Family GEIST

Connections: A Family GEIST

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

For those of you whom we haven’t been lucky enough to meet yet, we are the Johnstons: life-partners in marriage and colleagues in classics and ancient history. Our move to Fresno Pacific 17 years ago was a source of great renewal in our scholarly lives, now in the context of a Christian community. And that community has been very valuable to us in many ways: we want to highlight the family aspect of how the campus functions. Not in the sense that it is still small enough that it feels like an adopted family, but in the ways that multiple members of families are often part of the community. As we rejoice in having offices next door to each other, and even getting to team-teach on occasion, we see many other ways in which the idea of family pervades FPU.

Pam is the faculty representative to the women’s water polo team: we are delighted to work with the wonderful Brian and Kelly Suhovy! Many of us saw the picture of their son rushing over to Brian to celebrate a great victory on the pool deck. The theme of celebrating the journey with your children was reinforced to us this fall, when Ron Herms, dean of the School of Humanities, Religion and Social Sciences, celebrated his birthday with lunch in the Forest with wife Kathy, an employee and a graduate, and two of their daughters, one an FPU graduate and one a current student. In all, three members of the Herms family have degrees from FPU and one is a student! Hearing about the Oaxaca trip from last summer was another FPU family moment: Rod Janzen, professor of history, his son Chris, assistant professor of art, and several of their family ventured to learn about and plan for future travel to that fascinating Mexican state under the leadership of Virginia Garcia.

We are lucky enough to live on Kerckhoff Avenue with others of the FPU extended family. One of the ways we connect with each other is on weekday mornings when the kids are all walking to the nearby Jackson Elementary, and we are getting in our electric cars to go to the FPU campus. Other connections are at seasonal events: we are looking forward to trunk or treat later this month (in previous years faculty children even trick-or-treated on the office halls!), and it was a moving moment to see many family members at the Fall Scholars Banquet earlier this month (including President Joe and First Lady Yvette): several speakers at that event included Spanish greetings and comments so that all could feel welcome. And it was one of the highlights of the difficult 2020-2021 year for us that we were able to cohost the Employee Appreciation Lunch with Amina and Jason McGensy.

How many FPU couples can you think of? Sharon and Steven Starcher both teach in the School of Business, and Ken and Fran Martens Friesen, Alice Neikirk and Ray Nickson and Quentin and Cindy Kinnison teach in HRSS. Alexandra and Leigh Spencer, Anita and Roy Rodriguez and Randy and Tina White work in different areas of our institution. What FPU couples have we missed? Let us know in the comments. The fact that in all these cases spouses have come to join FPU shows the attraction of our community. And of course we can always connect at the coffee shop or in the Forest, whatever else our workdays entail. One of the most exemplary FPU faculty couples has always been Billie Jean and Richard Wiebe—it was a very difficult moment, and another blow from COVID, when we learned that Billie Jean had passed into the Greater Life just before Christmas Day 2020.

We are very touched when we are walking across the main campus to the caf, and a student or colleague notes how we celebrate “doing life” together. We don’t “model the way” perfectly, but we are humbled to be seen as examples of the kind of mutual relationship of love and support that can thrive in our prophetic Christian community of learners. As we Grow, Engage, Innovate, Serve and Transform at Fresno Pacific, it is a great privilege to do so as “the Pairadocs” (two Ph.D.s doing what we love), and to be surrounded by so many admirable family units. President Jones has further clarified the verbs of our strategic plan with adverbs, and there is no better way to “engage collectively” than as a family: in the case of Fresno Pacific, often family relationships lie at the heart of our collective service as an institutional family. At FPU, it’s all about the family!


Pam and Marshall Johnston, Ph.D.

Associate Professors of History