Giving Back

Then and Now: Vern & Barbara Story in 1968, back when money was tight, and this summer at their 50th wedding anniversary. The long-time Claremont supporters say they are "giving back" in honor of those who supported them when they were struggling, and they hope the cycle will continue.
Vern & Barb

Because Rev. Dr. Vernon "Vern" Story (RelD 1969) and his wife Barbara came from a strict fundamentalist background, they assumed a clerical career was out of the question for Vern. They had far too many doubts. While Vern was an undergraduate at Upland College, however, Dr. Allan Hunter, pastor of Mt. Hollywood Congregational Church, came to speak. Dr. Hunter told about how his congregation was living out Christ's mandate to love one's neighbor, going so far as to fill the church's basement with the personal property of Japanese families who were interned during the 1940s, so it would be there for them when they were set free. The Storys were inspired and intrigued. Vern began asking Dr. Hunter questions that had always bothered him, like why a God of love would allow the Holocaust to happen.

"Allan sat back and said 'I don't know,'" says Vern. "It was the first time I had ever heard any church authority figure admitting they didn't know." Vern told him about his disillusionment with church doctrine, and Allan told him, "You haven't given the real church a chance. Take a year and go to Claremont School of Theology and see if that changes your opinion." So Vern took his advice and enrolled at Claremont. It was a life-changing decision for both Vern and Barbara.

"We felt like we found something we had never known, like we were in Mecca," says Barbara. "We learned so much."

The pair found jobs on campus, with Barbara caring for other students' children as well as their young daughter Angela, and they managed to scrape by financially. They also switched their denomination to The United Methodist Church.

When Vern graduated with his doctorate in religion, the Storys discovered that they didn't owe a penny. Anonymous donors had taken care of everything. They always suspected it was Allan Hunter and some of his friends, but they never knew for sure. Since they now had two-month-old Kent in addition to Angela, and starting salaries for young ministers were not huge, this generosity was a Godsend.

"We decided that when we were able to give back, we would," says Vern. "We started giving intermittently, and then began giving consistently every month."

The Storys have one of Claremont's longest records of consistent monthly giving, and innumerable students have been the beneficiaries. That fact, says Barbara, pleases the gregarious couple no end.

The above article appeared on page 13 of the Claremont School of Theology's 2009-2010 Report On Philanthropy.

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