He values the individuality and unique situation of each doctor, nurse and patient he oversees as the director of the hematology/oncology division for Alameda County Hospital in Oakland, California.

Irwin discovered that personal approach at Houghton, modeled by the professors who helped him along his unconventional academic path. When he began in 1973 as a history major with the intent of going to law school, former history professor and division chair Dr. Katherine (Walberger ’43) Lindley advised him on not only what courses to take but also how to approach studying as an academician. She also instilled in him a love of learning for its own sake.

He found personal enrichment through his chapel experiences as well, particularly through speakers such as John Leax, professor emeritus of English, whose talks inspired Irwin to reflect on his own Christian experience and development.

During his senior year, as he was completing his requirements for a history major, Irwin began exploring science classes, starting with a general biology course. Dr. Don Munro, former chair of the biology department and mentor for pre-med students, was confident that the young man could succeed in both the humanities and the sciences. According to Irwin, “I felt [as if] I had been given enough of the key components to go into whatever discipline I wanted, and I was encouraged to do that.”

After graduation Irwin served for a year with the Salvation Army. He returned to Houghton in 1979 to add a year of science courses in preparation for medical school. It was former chemistry professor Dr. Larry Christensen who affirmed Irwin’s decision to return. Although he had taught Irwin in only one class prior to that year away, Christensen remembered him and gave him a “welcome back” as he read the roster. It was a greeting that struck a chord with Irwin and reminded him of all that he valued most about Houghton.

Irwin is enthusiastic about giving back to the place that helped shape his spiritual and academic growth. He sees his giving as personal, be it to the Student Scholarship Fund, the Paine Science Center or athletics: “I like to think that I’m giving to a particular person—whomever that person may be—who’s going to benefit from whatever we can do to make [Houghton] the best it can possibly be.”


How Firm a Foundation

A Conversation with Kim (Kerr ’91) Pegula
by Shelley (Smith ’93) Noyes

Unofficially dubbed “THE QUEEN OF BUFFALO” and “one of the most powerful women in American sports,” Buffalo Bills co-owner Kim (Kerr ’91) Pegula is down-to-earth, easy to talk to and ready to laugh. She is serious about her work in Buffalo but doesn’t take herself too seriously. At the beginning of our phone interview, we talk about being students at Houghton during the same era, find out we have some friends in common and discuss the height and width of our collective hair in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

The first thing I discover about Kim during our conversation is that one of her superpowers is MULTI-TASKING. She is doing more than reminiscing with me about her Houghton experience; she tells me that she is currently driving through Buffalo on her way to take her youngest son to Syracuse University to begin his freshman year. I hear rustling and whispering in the background, and Kim says to someone, “I’ll meet you down in the car….” To me, she says, “Yeah, I’m an empty nester. I’m all done—believe it or not. And it goes fast, believe me. It goes by much faster than you think.”

The speed of life is a common theme for Kim Pegula. She uses words like “quickly,” “hurry” and “very fast” as we talk about what it is like to raise five children, co-own NFL and NHL sports franchises (the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres), and serve as the president and CEO of Pegula Sports & Entertainment (PSE), where she manages all aspects of the 12 sports and entertainment entities owned by the Pegula family. PSE is the creative engine that runs the Pegula empire, and Kim loves being right in the middle of it. She is hands-on with everything, including marketing, content, media, public relations, business development, video production, finance, broadcasting, branding and even designing their signature (716) Food and Sport restaurant at HarborCenter. She is in constant motion—today designing a “One Buffalo” Perry’s Premium Ice Cream flavor (vanilla ice cream with sea salt caramel swirls, sponge candy pieces, and fudge-coated pretzels!) and tomorrow dropping in on the production of a lyric video for Black River Entertainment’s Kelsea Ballerini.

Did she ever imagine this life when she entered Houghton as a freshman? “I was a communication major at Houghton—I wanted to go into broadcast journalism,” Kim remembers. “I thought I was going to be, you know, Connie Chung—a newscaster type on TV.” She laughs and continues, “It is really funny to me now, because I just gave this big presentation to our entire staff—and I was just sweating it out because I’m so uncomfortable doing that now.” (It is hard to imagine Kim feeling nervous. I’ve seen her do a number of on-camera interviews on national TV; she is always poised, relaxed and articulate.)

“I had a great time and a great experience at Houghton,” Kim tells me. “I did what everyone else did: EAT!” (I’m thinking wings at Big Al’s, huge milkshakes and pizza—and my mouth starts watering….) “Because there is nothing else around you,” she continues, “you have to make what you have there the experience.” She also was a part of the Young Republicans, cheered for the basketball team and gave tours to visitors on campus. When she thinks back to what she learned at Houghton, what shaped her and what has stayed with her today, the word that comes up most often is “foundation.”

“Sports is such a fast world,” she explains. “The league, the NFL in general, is so big, and you’re rubbing elbows with people that you used to read about or hear about or see on TV. I so appreciate the foundation that Houghton gave me, because it has helped me to live in the world that I live in now. That foundation—the idea of God, of family, of doing for others—all that stuff is the ‘good stuff.’ It is the foundation that you fall back on when you need it the most.”


Message from the President

In one word, that is the timeless mission of Houghton College. We seek to facilitate, in the words of Webster’s, the “force of impression of one thing on another.” First, we invite the deep imprint of a transformational education on the intellectual, spiritual, social and personal development of aspiring men and women. Second, we connect these individuals with opportunities to have a compelling effect on their families, their churches, their professions, their culture and their world. This is what Houghton has been doing since Willard J. Houghton founded the institution in 1883.

It is not just any kind of impact. Houghton’s impact is toward enlarging the true, the good and the beautiful in every individual and in every situation of our world. In the language of St. Paul and Augustine, it is about linking our deepest longings, our most energetic pursuits with those things that are most worthy of our attention. It is about seeing the world as God sees it—celebrating its creation and pursuing its redemption—in the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not just impact that is selective or high-profile. Houghton is about developing the God-given potential of every student who comes to us—not just the students who will make the Dean’s list. Only God knows what he can do with the gifts of someone who makes him or herself fully available to his purposes. Houghton is about celebrating the effect of daily creative and passionate faithfulness wherever that is to be found—both in the places that others notice and that draw public acclaim and in those places that are known only to God.

We invite you to enjoy the stories of impact that we have gathered together in this issue of Houghton and to join us in looking forward expectantly to all that is yet to come for this institution of “God’s own planting” as He continues through the Campaign for Greater Houghton to “raise up friends to perpetuate it for the good of the world.”


Shirley A. Mullen, Class of 1976