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Family passes love for PLU through the generations

By Nisha Ajmani Wade ’02

Flipping through their neatly preserved scrapbook pages, Gerry and Milly Lider laugh as they talk about the first time they met and their time together at PLU.

Their story begins in 1942 when Gerry ’47 and Milly (Hanson) came to what was then Pacific Lutheran College and met at a drinking fountain.

Strolling through campus, Gerry and Milly remember their first date to the Football Banquet – “the event of the year” according to Milly, – many walks around the Parkland area and visits to the infamous kicking post, where couples went to steal kisses.

The Liders, who live in Bellevue, Wash., have now been married 59 years and their love for PLU has been passed down through the generations. All three of their children – and five of their grandchildren, with more still to come – have attended PLU.

“Our family is blessed,” Milly said. “We’re very prideful and honored that our children and grandchildren chose to graduate from our alma mater. And we’re pleased about the education they’ve received.”

The Lider family is just one of the many Legacy Lute families that connect the history and the future of the university, keeping generations in touch with the PLU and providing volunteer and financial support.

THEN AND NOW: The Lider family's legacy started in 1942 when Gerry '47 and Milly (Hanson) Lider met at Pacific Lutheran College. He accompanied her as she participated in the May Day celebration as an attendant. After 59 year, their love for each other and the university that brought them together remains strong.


LIDER FAMILY TREE: Click here to enlarge

Lauralee Hagen ’75 ’78, director of Alumni and Parent Relations, said PLU’s legacy families choose PLU for more reasons than tradition.

“That’s part of it, but it’s more than that,” Hagen said. “Parents know that PLU helped develop their values and provided a holistic education, and they want the same for their children. Fortunately, students want to have those same experiences.”

This year, PLU has more than 260 returning legacy students and about 90 incoming students who had a parent attend PLU. Other examples of Legacy Lutes include multiple siblings who attend or families who become legacy through marriage.

Legacy, tradition, heritage

Countless legacy families share a love for PLU’s traditions and mission, and their PLU experiences also create deep connections within their families.

Ask anyone in the Lider family what they love about PLU and they’ll provide similar responses – legacy, tradition and heritage. But, you’ll also hear about the outstanding education they received, the professors who guided them and the lifelong friends they made.

Check out other Lider family photos.

“I got a good background academically, musically, athletically and spiritually,” said Gerry, a retired junior high school principal. “And friendships that have held for 60 years.”

While none of the Lider grandchildren are required to go to PLU, their parents and grandparents are happy when it’s a good fit.

“Everyone in my family was very supportive of me going to PLU,” said Nate Swanson ’00, who was the first grandchild of Gerry and Milly to attend the university. “I saw that they had professional careers and were happy. It seemed like a good stepping stone for life.”

Nate’s parents, Wendy (Lider) and Mark Swanson ’68 of Redmond, Wash., said PLU’s spirit of service, strong academics, Christian influence and Norwegian background always stood out.

“The heart of PLU made an impression on me,” Mark said.

Coming from a family where four of the eight children have gone to PLU, Nate said he is glad to see others from his generation wanting to attend. “This is really a proud tradition in our family,” he said.

For the Swansons, the heritage extends to Mark’s family, many of whom also went to PLU – including his parents, three brothers and some their wives and children.

“Our kids appreciate PLU from both sides,” said Wendy, who left PLU after a year to pursue a degree not offered by the university. “It’s part of the story. There’s a lot of heritage.”

Nate’s twin brothers, Carl and Colin, are PLU freshmen this fall and are numbers 24 and 25 of the Swanson and Lider family combined to attend the university.

Another of Mark and Wendy’s sons, Laef Swanson ’05, said he enjoyed being a student at the same time as other members of his family. In addition to spending four years on campus with his cousin, Brita Lider ’05, Laef and his brother, Nate, were at PLU for a semester together.

“It was nice to have an older brother to help me out while I was here,” Laef said. “He took me under his wing.”

Changing with the times

Legacy families watch PLU changing through the generations. For instance, when Gerry and Milly were students, dancing was considered a sin. But their children went to weekly dances, protested curfew and started living in co-ed halls. Their grandchildren have even more freedom.

It was a huge accomplishment for Milly just to get to PLU. Orphaned at age 10, she took a year off after high school to earn the $500 tuition and, as a student, provided ironing and babysitting services to professors.

“It was my biggest dream all my life to come to PLU,” she said.

In addition to working, Milly played basketball and participated in the May Day celebration as an attendant.

She attended PLU for one year before continuing at Everett General Hospital School of Nursing in the Nursing Cadet Core. Milly returned to PLU and worked as a nurse for two years while Gerry, who had left the school to serve in the Navy during World War II, finished his liberal arts degree.

Though he was away from PLU for three years during the war – attending Dickinson State Teachers College in Dickinson, N.D., with 14 of his classmates as part of the Navy V-12 program, going to midshipman’s school in Chicago, and serving in both the Mediterranean and the Pacific – Gerry felt close to the university. He continued to get support from the faculty and especially remembers his first Christmas away, when he received a greeting card signed by professors like John Xavier, Cliff Olson, Ole Stuen, Lora Kriedler, Jesse Pflueger and Philip Hauge.

While at PLU, Gerry, whose sister Norma (Longbottom ’43) Lider also attended, sang in the Choir of the West and various quartets, played baritone in the PLU band, and was class president his junior and senior years. He remembers playing basketball games at Parkland Elementary and practicing football on the pebbles of what is now Red Square. He was also a member of the track team.

When Gerry and Milly went to PLU, Old Main, now known as Harstad Hall, housed all the students. “In our day there was a wooden wall – and the men lived on one side and the women on theother,” Milly said.“It was rathercozy.”

They saw changes when their son, Eric Lider ’75, moved on campus and into a newly co-ed floor inTingelstad Hall.

This was a big change from just years earlier when Wendy and Mark were students. Women had an 11 p.m. curfew, and members of the opposite sex were only allowed in the lobby. Stricter rules also included required chapel and dresses for girls.

Mark said even music was controversial while he was a student, with rock ’n’ roll evolving on campus.

By the time his younger brother Kirk Lider ’82 was at PLU, students enjoyed weekly dances. As Alpine hall president, Kirk was in charge of finding three or four hours of music for them. “Every Friday or Saturday night there was a dance in a different dorm,” he said.

Kirk and his wife, Carol (Boose ’82) Lider of Bellevue, who haven’t had any kids attend PLU yet, met their sophomore year – in a PLU van, helping new students get to campus for orientation.

“We grew up about a mile apart and never knew each other,” Kirk said.

Professors, travel have strong influence

Strong academics and the chance for learning outside the classroom are a big draw for many legacy families. All the Liders credit specific professors and other experiences such as studying abroad for influencing them.

As students, Kirk and Carol traveled to Israel, Egypt and Jordan for an Interim (now called J-Term) Biblical archaeology class. With the information fresh in their minds from a lecture/slide show the night before, the class toured many Biblical sites.

Nate and his brother Laef also studied abroad – with Laef traveling to Jamaica on a J-Term trip and Nate going to Sterling University in Scotland for a semester.

“It opened my eyes to the rest of the world and how it functions,” Nate said “That was probably my best experience through PLU.”

In addition to studying abroad, Nate cites PLU’s science program as influential. He graduated in May from The College of St. Catherine in Minneapolis, Minn., with a master’s of physical therapy, and was impressed with how well his science classes at PLU carried over to physical therapy.

“PLU prepared me for my future studies,” he said. “It got me to focus on where I wanted my career to go.”

Mark, an emergency room physician at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center in Kirkland, Wash., said his biology professor Harold Leraas influenced his decision to go to medical school.

“He made me take the chance and gave me the direction of which schools to apply to,” he said. “Leraas had a knack for and reputation for getting students into medical school.”

Eric said being back on campus for his daughter’s May graduation reminded him of how his career in education started.

He credits professor Katherine Iverson Beckman with sparking his interest in education. “She presented the whole elementary ed thing with such spirit,” he said. “I thought ‘I want to do this.’”

Eric followed in his father’s footsteps and is now a retired elementary physical education teacher who still coaches high school track and cross country in Lake Oswego, Ore.

Kirk, a sales/contract administrator at General Plastics Manufacturing Co. in Tacoma, said PLU provided a strong foundation. He didn’t use his biology major in any of his jobs, but said the problem solving and people skills he learned at PLU have contributed to his success.

“The school produces kids who are successful,” Mark said. “I owe PLU a lot for all that I’ve done.”

Sports create confidence, lasting friendships

Athletics play an integral role for many families throughout the generations – and they carry the pride and dedication with them after college.

That’s obvious with the Liders, who nearly all participated in some sport and cherish their letters and Lute sports memorabilia.

Both Gerry and Eric ran track. Eric, who has had one of his three children go to PLU, said it was his time on the team and the professors he had that made him the coach he is today. “The character and how you compete in the sport is more important than winning or losing,” he said.

He attributes his attitude to the way sports are run at PLU and the classes he took from retired Athletic Director Paul Hoseth and former head football coach Frosty Westering. “Frosty was one of those guys who immediately made an impression,” Eric said. “He made an impact on people he didn’t even coach. As a P.E. and track guy, he changed me.”

His wife, Anne, agrees, comparing Westering’s inspiration to Eric’s influence in their community. “His roots and his character came from PLU,” she said. “Who he is was shaped here and he’s transferred that to so many people.”

His daughter, Brita, who was on the women’s soccer team, said she also learned a lot about herself by playing sports at PLU. A sociology major, Brita is now working on a master’s degree in teaching at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., and hopes to become a special education teacher.

She said she came to PLU to play soccer – and because her family always talked so highly of the university. “Brita wanted to do the soccer thing,” said Eric. “And I just loved my small college athletics.”

“I thought PLU would be a good choice for her because of what it did for Eric,” Anne added.

Brita said balancing soccer and school was sometimes a challenge. “It’s awesome to learn how to do that, how to prioritize and be successful in more than one area.”

Her cousin Laef agreed it was rewarding to do well both in class and on the soccer field. He appreciated the camaraderie with his teammates. “They’re family because you see them every day,” said Laef, who like his mother, uncle, cousin and grandfather hopes to pursue a career in education. “They’re they ones you go to battle with.”

Eric still keeps in touch with his track buddies, including some who are also coaches. “It’s kind of fun because PLU is our bond,” he said. “Sometimes we’re competing against each other, but there’s still that friendship that was made here.”

Brita and her cousin, Nate, attribute their friendships to the characteristics of the people who attend the university. “PLU attracts a lot of really good people, which makes it easier to make and keep friends,” Nate said.

No matter what their experience, all the Liders agree on one thing. The friendships they made have lasted and will continue to thrive.

“After all these years our best friends are still PLU classmates,” Milly said.

Family Ties

Family ties can be found throughout PLU and across the years. Here are just a few examples of the types of legacies created by PLU.

Brotherly love

With three sets of brothers playing last spring, the PLU men’s lacrosse team didn’t lack chemistry.

Attackers Kepa ’05 and Josu ’08 Zubizarreta, utilityman Wes Telyea ’06 and defender John Telyea ’09 and midfielders David ’06 and Kevin ’09 Rose all say they love having each other as teammates.

“We get more time hanging out, and we can return to our roots of playing sports together,” said Kepa Zubizarreta. He and his brother, Josu, have played other sports together since they were kids.

Kevin Rose said he came to PLU because of his brother. “He’s the guy I always look to and I’m the guy he always looks to,” Kevin said. “Just to have that encouragement is awesome.”

- By Trista Winnie, The Mast

Seven siblings

The Krebs family knows PLU well – with all seven of Keith and Kathy Krebs’ children having attended the university.

Ranging from football and basketball to the nursing program and liberal arts, the children – Sandra Krebs ’82, Kurt Krebs ’85, Karla (Krebs ’86) Houk, Erik Krebs ’89, Brock Krebs ’90, Stephanie (Krebs ’92) Gomsrud and Rachel (Krebs ’97) Foster – all had different reasons for choosing PLU.

Stephanie said that while her siblings influenced her decision to go to the university, it wasn’t the only factor. “I was number six in the family, so I got to know the university well,” she said. “It’s a well-rounded school with a lot of good things to offer.”

Like father, like daughter

The Rev. John Cockram ’68 and his daughter, Kacey (Cockram ’96) Hahn, are the only known set of father and daughter University Congregation presidents to serve at PLU.

Being president played an important role in Hahn’s time at PLU and in her career in the ministry. “It was one of my best decisions,” she said. “It was kind of a renaissance for me. I fell in love with the church.”

Hahn, who checked out a number of small liberal arts colleges before deciding on PLU, said that while her father influenced her decision, he was not the main reason she came to the university. “My dad didn’t pressure me at all,” she said. “When I came to PLU, it just felt like home.”

Following in her father’s footsteps once again, Hahn is now an intern pastor in Flagstaff, Ariz. Her father is a pastor in Sun City, Ariz.

Football brethren

Brothers Adam ’05 and Matt ’01 Nichols are just one of the 48 sets of brothers who played football under legendary former head coach Frosty Westering.

While the two weren’t on the field at the same time – Matt graduated just one year before Adam arrived – the way the program is run stands out to both of them.

“You leave here with so much more than just football,” Adam said. “You learn how to be a better person.”

Adam, who played football for a few years in high school before switching to baseball, said his brother guided him with positive encouragement and helped him prepare to be able to play on PLU’s team.

He added that his brother’s experience with football is definitely the reason he chose to attend PLU. “I saw the impact that the program had on his life,” he said.


© Scene 2005  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Fall 2005

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