From PUC to the Friendly Skies

We asked Matthew Gheen, ’98, who currently works as an airline pilot for United Airlines, to share about his experience at PUC and his journey from tragedy to success.

How a forest fire changed my path…
I started college in August 1992, at Shasta College in Redding, Calif. That same evening, a large forest fire started and burned down our family home, along with almost 400 hundred other homes. I did not return to class the next day and instead, over the course of the next three months, helped my family pick up the pieces and get back on their feet. It was during this time, I started to re-think my decision to attend Shasta College. I was invited to visit some friends of mine who were attending PUC. While there, I met Dr. Russell Laird, head of the department of industrial technology and Reinhard Jarschke, the director of the flight school. These conversations changed my decision (they were so convincing) and I decided God wanted me to go to PUC. I signed up right away and started in January 1993.

I chose industrial technology and management with an emphasis in aviation as my degree. My experience in construction and mechanical things led me to this degree, but my true passion was with the emphasis in aviation. It was the department of aviation that excited me the most. I wanted to fly for a living.

Financially, however, it wasn’t easy. As I look back, I realize God was always there, but I had to work hard, working about 30 hours per week in-between classes, making sure I always had summer jobs, and applying for school loans each year. I even had to pause flying for a while to focus on school but was able to resume after four years, in order to complete the classes I needed and graduate with an aviation emphasis.

PUC’s foundational emphasis on God allowed me to keep a close relationship with Him while I was there. The opportunities for academic growth and character development are also a big reason why it is such a wonderful school.

What I am most thankful for…
As I think back, I am most thankful God led me to my wife, Melissa. In October 1993, I went on a PUC Business Club camping trip to Yosemite Valley and expected to hang out with my two close friends that weekend. Melissa and I were in the group that chose to hike Half Dome and I noticed her at the start of the hike. We ended up talking along the way and throughout the remainder of the year, we dated. I found out later that although she is scared of heights, she forced herself to climb the last part up the face of the rock to the top of Half Dome, just to impress me. She still continues to impress me to this day. We are just about to celebrate 21 years of marriage and have two daughters who are excited about attending PUC when the time comes.

Matt and his wife Melissa in an airplane at PUC.

Where flying has taken me…
After college, I started accumulating hours by flight instructing. I then flew freight and had just landed when the 9/11 tragedy rocked the world. This unfortunate event, along with the recession a few years later, brought commercial aviation to its knees. This time period is often referred to as the “lost decade” in the pilot world because there was very little movement for most pilots. I intended, after PUC, to fly for a commercial airline but instead found myself flying for an air ambulance fixed-wing company. This job was extremely rewarding; it brought a chance for me to see the first responders at their best, and to give people, at their most vulnerable point, a fighting chance to live. I believe God lead me to this position and am so grateful to have had this type of experience.

I flew air ambulance for seven years. During this time, the regional airlines (the small commercial airline carriers) started to pick up hiring. (The major airlines were still not hiring very much and some still had thousands of pilots on furlough.) In order to be more competitive for the major airlines, I chose to start applying for a regional airline job. Flying at a regional level was going to take a huge financial sacrifice but it would give me some additional experience the major airlines would likely want to see, considering the competitiveness of the industry.

We took on a cross country move and was at a regional airline for two years. We then spent a short stint at a low cost carrier and God, to our excitement, landed us a major airline job. In fact, we had multiple offers, multiple doors were opened, and we were faced with a big decision. Truly, a tough but a good position to be in.

As we all face our journeys, it is important to realize how our foundation in God is so key. There’s twists and turns along the way, but God always has a plan. God is always there leading.

A recent photo of Matt in his “office.”

This entire road began at PUC. I credit the college for:
Helping further solidify my Seventh-day Adventist religious beliefs,
Starting my path in aviation,
Placing me in an environment of similarly-minded religious individuals,
Giving me the opportunity to meet my wife and best friend,
Many friends,
4 ½ wonderful years with many fond memories, and
Expanding my horizons.

Every time I fly into San Francisco International Airport and we arrive from the north, I am looking down out the window for PUC. On those clear days when I do see the campus on the hill and the little runway in the trees, it brings back such a rush of memories. I had so many great times in the short years I was there.

Thank you PUC!
Matt Gheen

Matt and his beautiful family on a recent family vacation.

Pioneers Profile: Kwuan Guerrero

By Andrew Mahinay

You can catch Kwuan Guerrero shooting hoops down at the Pacific Auditorium (PUC’s gym), playing Super Smash Bros., or applying literary theory to different texts. Guerrero, who is graduating this coming weekend with a bachelor’s in English education, began his basketball career at PUC the summer of 2014-2015. His mind was set on two things during his time at the college: The first endeavor he set out to achieve was his degree in English education, and his second goal was to be a powerful force on the Pioneers men’s basketball team.

Guerrero, who has received many athletic awards, began his basketball career at the age of 14. He fell in love with the sport and the technicalities behind it, and the team effort and team chemistry that needed to exist to be successful. His God-gifted height of 6”5 also helped make it possible for him to succeed in the sport. During his freshman year in high school at Hawthorne High School in Southern California, he averaged eight points a game. After three years, he transferred to Price High School, where he played his senior year. It was his passion and love for the game that drove him to play at the college level.  

When asked what influenced him to play basketball, Guerrero says, “I liked the challenge of getting better at things. Basketball helped me build the ability to stay focused, especially on my grades.”

His basketball career carried on when he entered college. He first played for Fresno City College, where he viewed himself as an “under the radar player.” After playing a couple of seasonal games, Guerrero caught a huge break when Greg Rahn, the men’s basketball coach at PUC, approached him with an offer to play for the Pioneers. After some deliberation and negotiation, Guerrero signed on to the Pioneers basketball team.

Although the limelight was yet to be on him, Guerrero worked on his craft, dedicating hours in and out of the gym, going into each workout circuit with intensity and making sure he kept a clean diet. During his senior year at PUC, he had to opportunity to be one of the five starters for the team. Soon, he began to showcase his natural strength playing as a power forward and a center. He began topping the stats, being one of the only players to average the most points, rebounds, and assists in each game. Guerrero helped lead the Pioneers to win the Cal Pac championship in February.

One of Guerrero’s greatest memories as a Pioneer is winning the Cal Pac championship. He said, “Experiencing such a moment with my teammates was one of the best feelings.” He is also thankful he was able to mentally grow as an individual and player this year.

The week leading up to the championship, Guerrero was named the Cal Pac Player of the Week due to his stats and dedication to the team. He helped lead the Pioneers to victory against UC Merced and Cal Maritime, averaging 15.5 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 70.5 percent from the field and 87.5 percent from the free throw line. Guerrero finished that week with a career high of 25 points and five rebounds against the Cal Maritime Keelhaulers. These wins placed the Pioneers in the third seed in the Cal Pac tournament, which they would go on to win.

Guerrero became a PUC Pioneer star, but he still remains a genuinely humble individual. He hopes to become a high school English teacher, and he is open to the idea of eventually becoming a college professor. He is also open to coaching for a high school team with the hopes of eventually becoming a head coach of a high school team.

In addition to succeeding on the court and in class, Guerrero also succeeded in making PUC his second home, “It’s like I’ve gotten so used to being here at PUC that when I go home, I miss it,” he says.

We offer our heartfelt congratulations to Kwuan and all the graduating seniors. We wish each and every one success and God’s richest blessings!

PUC. The Holy Hill. Home.

By Juan Hidalgo 3rd

On Sept 18, 2010, I left my sunny SoCal home and began the 8-hour trek to Pacific Union College. On June 18, 2017, I will be walking across the stage as an official graduate of this college! My time at PUC has been a compilation of the best and most challenging years of my life. As I complete my undergraduate career, here is some advice I would like to leave you as a student, prospective student, interested person, or the fourth person reading this, my mom.

Be a “Yes” Man/Woman
In my time at PUC I have had the great opportunity of getting to know a variety of different people as well as hold a variety of different student leadership positions. This school presented me with an abundance of opportunities to get involved with student life and develop my leadership skills. When I first came here, I didn’t know how to get involved or if I really wanted to. Little by little, professors and fellow students began to ask me if I wanted to help with different events and/or hold different leadership positions. Hesitantly, I said yes and have never looked back. Each opportunity pushed me to get out of my introvert shell to the point where anyone reading this who has come to know me in my time at PUC will be surprised to know I classify myself as an introvert. Say “Yes.” Go and get involved. Whether becoming an officer for one of the many clubs we have on campus, getting a job in a department, or even running for an elected position in Student Association or Senate, you will thank yourself later.

Break Bread with Friends
The fact we are located in one of the culinary capitals of the world means there are plenty of great places, besides the Dining Commons, to ease your “hAngriness” or your “hAttitude”. You can build your own sandwich at Guigni’s Deli, slurp a delicious milk shake from Gott’s Roadside, or share a bomb.com margherita pizza from Tra Vigne. BUT, being that most of us are on a college student budget, this means you also get to make trips to Safeway and cook your own meals with friends once in awhile. Sometimes this means ramen in your room at 3 a.m., on the floor, while your roommate is up playing WOW (World of Warcraft) and sometimes you channel your inner Gordon Ramsey and make a whole potluck for your friends on Sabbath afternoon. Whatever it may be, I know some of the best memories I have at PUC are mixing ingredients, over a stove and around a table, sharing a meal with my friends.

Family is the Most Important Thing
If college is your first time away from home, you may experience one of two things. First, this may be the happiest time of your life as you are now a full-fledged adult and have finally realized you never needed your mom and dad anyway and they were only holding you back from your true potential as an independent, self-sufficient human being. OR, and this is the category I fell into, you may feel a little sad, maybe even a little alone. This is probably not due to the fact you are actually alone, but more so that you miss your parents or whomever you left back home. Let me assure you, there is nothing wrong with this, and yes, you can still be an adult and be homesick.

Hands down my favorite part of my experience here at PUC has been what I discovered when I felt most alone on this hill. You see, up here we have something I can’t fully explain to you, you simply have to experience it on your own. We call it “The PUC Family.” This family took me from Grainger Hall 209, crying on my first birthday away from home, to countless occasions of laughing until I cried. During my time here, the family has been through a lot of great times and a few very difficult times. We have laughed together, struggled through finals together, and mourned the loss of dear family members together. People often say we are kind of “stuck” up here on this hill, but let me tell you, being “stuck” has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. At PUC I have made family members who will last me a lifetime. I have met people who I can be real with, people I can cry with, people whom I love. So if you are nervous about leaving home, don’t worry, you’re coming to another one.

Juan will be graduating with degrees in psychology, Spanish, and nursing.

Trust God’s Timing and His Plan
There are times in your academic career, and in life in general, when you are going to be unsure. You are going to doubt yourself, you are going to stress, and you might want to switch your major from biology and pre-med to basket weaving with an emphasis in Ultimate Frisbee. That’s OK. You probably also will experience some form of failure. That’s OK too. I have found PUC has given me a good balance of success and “gut checks.” What I mean by that is, for all the good times I have had, there were less desirable times I also thank God for. I thank God because though things didn’t always go my way, though I didn’t always get the grade I wanted, and though I doubted myself and Him many times, I am stronger because of it.

There you have it, my “two cents” on a world-class experience at Pacific Union College. If you are a current student, enjoy it while it lasts, the end comes faster than expected. If you are a potential student, get ready for a life-changing experience academically and to be part of a new family. If you are neither, but simply an interested reader, I say “cheerio” and I hope you enjoyed. If you are my mom and are crying while reading this, I say “I love you and thank you and Dad for giving me the experience of a lifetime.”

Juan Hidalgo 3rd  
At-Large Senator     
Chief Student Ambassador
Senior Class President

It’s tradition at PUC for seniors to ring the historic Healdsburg Bell when they’ve finished their last final. Congratulations Juan!

First Annual PMPD Health Fair a Success

By Abigail Daniliuc

It is amazing how a vision can start, grow, morph, and is almost unreal when it becomes a reality. After months of planning and preparing for the Pre-Medicine and Pre-Dentistry Health Fair, it finally took place in the PUC gymnasium on May 21, 2017.

Initially, we started the event with the goal to consolidate the need for shadowing hours and networking opportunities of pre-professional students into one unifying event for everyone interested in health professions. However, at the end of the event it was clear God had another plan, which was to open our hearts and give the college the opportunity to soften the hearts of PUC’s students, as well as change the lives of the patients who came to be seen at the health fair. Our event sought to care for the person as a whole and our mission was reflected in our acts of service, from offering a brand new pair of glasses, educating on the importance of cholesterol management, sharing healthy food demonstrations, and gaining insight on what it means to lead a spiritually healthy life.

Basic medical, dental, and vision exams can cost over $50 at doctors’ office, so this turned out to be very beneficial for community members and students who were seen during the Health Fair. In the future, with more tools and resources, we hope to expand and provide a higher level of care and disease prevention to local communities such as Clearlake. Along with medical and dental providers, we can be equipped to deliver the highest care possible to those in need.

At the fair, both students and professionals spent their time instructing the patients about positive health behaviors, while providing preventive services. They also encouraged patients to receive medical and dental care from their community providers. Yet, while the health fair helped increase access to preventive health services and screenings, little health impact can be achieved without follow-up care. To address this gap, I hope you will be interested in next year’s health fair for another chance to open our doors to serve the community God has placed us in to be His hands and feet. When a vision finally becomes a reality and is able to bless God’s people, He gets to be glorified. I was touched by the positive responses from the aftermath of the health fair and that He was indeed glorified in this event. I am confident He will make a way for more similar community outreach events like the PMPD Health Fair to occur annually.

Special thanks goes out to all our volunteers and sponsors who helped this event take place. I would like to take the time to highlight some of the key contributors. Thank you to Fabio Maia and Holly Jeske for their constant encouragement, resourcefulness, and help with planning the details for the fair. We partnered with the St. Helena Hospital, Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Adventist Medical Evangelism Network, Cal Coast, Napa Solano Dental Society, Take 10, Paws for Healing, and Angwin Village Seventh-day Adventist Church. Also a special thanks to Dr. James Gearing, Dr. Isaac Chin, Dr.  Wayne Ogata, Dr. Renee Tabiolo, Mr. Gilbert Lutes, and Mr. Jose Ponce for their time serving the community and for their donations of materials.

Lastly, I would like to thank the professors who helped spread the word about the fair to their classes. This event could also not have occurred without the help of the team of dedicated student volunteers. They did everything from setting the up the fair to helping the professional volunteers, and being so ready to plug in and assist wherever they were needed.

My PUC Story: Taylor Pittenger

By Andrea James

Taylor Pittenger is a recent PUC graduate who earned a degree in religion and returned to the college for her secondary school teaching credentials. However, she was initially drawn to PUC’s excellent journalism program. In her words, “I absolutely adored doing journalism and writing for the Campus Chronicle, and felt I was really excelling, but I had a big moment where I felt God was calling me to do something more.”

Taylor felt God wanted her to help people spiritually, but was torn between pastoral work and teaching. She thought about which path would allow her to make the greatest impact on students. “I felt if I became a teacher, I would be able to make a bigger impact on them and see their spiritual growth happen on a day-to-day basis”

Taylor interned with the youth pastor at the Loma Linda University Church in the summer of 2016. The experience helped her realize how much she loved to work with youth and talk about God with them. “It was life-changing. Before, I felt a little insecure about going into this field because I felt I was not qualified; I felt I wasn’t good enough. I would look at my peers in the department of theology and I would see them preaching, I would see them doing Bible studies, and I would see how smart they were when it came to Biblical ideas. I felt like I was inadequate. But when I was in that room with my students—actually in that space—and when I’m teaching, I felt like this is exactly where I need to be. I have an opportunity to disciple young people. I think what’s lost in our church is we keep saying the youth are the future; they’re the future of the church; but I think that’s only half true; they are the present of the church as well.”

Taylor finds comfort in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (NIV).

“That one verse is something I really believe in. It makes me think, ‘It doesn’t matter what age you are, what ethnicity, what gender you are.’ I think we are all children of God and everyone should have an opportunity to experience God’s love and God’s grace. I think it’s easy for us to shut people out because we disagree with them. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, on the religious spectrum—no matter where you are on that, it’s easy for us to say ‘Oh, you’re one of them? I’m not going to listen to you. I really want to make an effort to listen to other people because I think when we take time to actually listen to what other people have to say regardless of what their views are, you get a sense of humanizing them and you create an empathetic relationship with that person. For me, even though I might disagree with somebody else, I still want to know; I still want to learn what is on their hearts. I feel like I’ve really grown as a person because I learned and took time to listen. It’s better—I think it’s important to not just hear people, but to actually listen to people; I think there’s a big difference with that.”

Overall, Taylor has enjoyed being a part of the spiritual, diverse PUC community and is sad to be leaving once she earns her credentials. “PUC is a place where my relationship with God flourished. I had a relationship with God before I was here, but ever since I’ve been here, it’s been a journey where I felt like God always had my back through every step of the way. He called me to different places and showed me different people in my life I needed. I’m just grateful I had this opportunity to be in a place I think God wanted me to be.”

My Experience Applying to Law School

By Andrew Mahinay

Editor’s note: This fall, Andrew is headed to the University of the Pacific to study law. We asked him to share how applying to law school was for him to provide insight for any student considering attending law school or another graduate school.

The application process starts the day you step foot, as a student, on your college campus. Obtaining a high GPA and participating in activities differentiating you from other applicants is the first step to a successful application.

The most important time for me was the summer of my junior year. I had to study for the LSAT, the admissions test for law school. After hours of preparation for months, I took the test, and to my excitement, received the score I needed. With the biggest component of the application out of the way, I began working on other parts of the application that took a lot of time and persistence.

Prospective law school students are typically required to obtain two recommendation letters from professors or employers. Thank God I went to PUC because the professors are easily accessible. I had the privilege of asking one of my English professors, from whom I had taken several classes, as well as my current boss at Newton Hall, to write my letters of recommendation. Whether you are applying to a grad program or a future job, make sure you ask your recommenders early on in the application process because they are busy working individuals with responsibilities of their own, and it may take some time for them to write their letter, and you don’t want to cut it too close or miss the deadline.

Other then studying for the LSAT, writing my personal statement for my application took up most of my time. Writing a response to each different law school prompt was tedious. However, I stayed focused and completed this task with the help of fellow students, professors, and the staff at PUC’s Teaching Learning Center, who helped me by peer reviewing grammatical errors and made my personal statement more compelling.

Creating a resume was another requirement I needed to fulfill. In college, get involved early on so you have activities to put on your resume. Keep in mind, your high school experiences are irrelevant. Graduate schools want to see your college experiences, not your high school ones. My resume was composed of years of activities from my first job, to managing and leading out in my first campus club.

The last item on the list I needed to obtain was my most recent transcript. PUC makes this process simple. Simply go on the Record’s Office page of the PUC website and fill out the Transcript Request Form. The process is straightforward and the college does all the work for you, sending your transcript straight to the graduate program you are applying for. PUC doesn’t charge any transcript fees for the first 25 copies of your transcript.

Once I had all the requirements completed (LSAT score, personal statement, resume, letters of recommendation, transcripts), I began to submit online applications to each school I was considering attending. After that, the real fun beganwaiting. Waiting can be stressful, but take it easy. At this point, you have done everything in your power. Patience is key! After a month of waiting, I received notification I had been accepted into one of my top law school choices.

During a special visitation day for admitted students to UoP, I had the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a law student at the school I decided to attend. I had the privilege of sitting in on a mock class taught by the honorable dean of the law school, which gave me firsthand experience of what to expect for law school. The feelings were so real as I sat and listened while taking notes. I left that day even more excited to begin!

The application process for law school, or any graduate program, is no joke. It takes time, persistence, and planning to get it done. However, the rewards are well worth it. It’s your future! Getting an acceptance letter from one of your top schools is one of the best feelings you will ever experience in your life. It’s also important to remember you aren’t alone through this process. Professors, your family, and friends will be there along the way to support you. For those of you who will be applying to law school or other graduate schools in the future, best of luck to you!

Casual Kindness at PUC

By Andrea James

One of the first things I noticed as a freshman at PUC was the casual everyday kindness students showed toward each other. Everywhere I went, people held open doors for each other and picked up papers others had dropped. I’ve experienced acts of varying magnitude from buying a stranger lunch to letting someone know their tag is sticking out of their shirt collar. Regardless of how big or small, these random acts of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s day or even life. The casual kindness I witness every day is one of my favorite things about PUC. In these small acts and fleeting moments, I see true Christian behavior and the expression of true Christian love toward one’s neighbor.

In this time when we are bombarded everyday with how horribly human beings can treat each other and how selfishly they can act, watching someone be kind to a stranger for no reason and with no expectation of reward is like cool aloe vera on a severe sunburn. This campus is by no means perfect, but it has often seemed to me an oasis in a harsh, biting desert.

There are other places, I’m sure, where random acts of kindness are as common if not more so, and certainly people everywhere occasionally do nice things for each other. I don’t mean to claim PUC is solely unique in this regard, I merely wish to acknowledge and celebrate this aspect of our community in the hopes this behavior will become yet more prevalent and widespread both at PUC and wherever our students go throughout their lives.

If you want to start being kind in your everyday life but don’t know how, here are some suggestions:

  • Compliment someone (though only if the sentiment is genuine).
  • Do something simple such as basic origami when you’re bored in class and give the results to whoever’s sitting nearby.
  • Buy an extra cookie when you go to the caf and give it away.
  • Hold the door open for the person behind you.
  • If there’s a class you’ve particularly enjoyed or learned a lot from, tell the teacher.
  • If you have the money to spare, buy a drink at the Grind for your roommate, teacher, or friend.
  • Pray for God to bring people into your life or opportunities for kindness to your attention.
  • Just look around, keep an eye out as you go about your day. Maybe someone dropped a pen or has a leaf caught in their hair—there are opportunities all around you.

Every little thing truly does count. Putting just a bit more love and kindness into the world is so easy and takes so little time, but can turn someone’s day around or give them some small bit of comfort or emotional boost. So PUC community, thank you for the kindness you have shown me and please continue to be kind every day to whomever you may meet.