Holly Harris Wood '07
During Spring Quarter of my junior year at SPU, a Facebook group cropped up called "The Real Reason I’m at SPU: JJ Kissinger."
As an admissions counselor with a penchant for good conversation and building those Colorado recruitment numbers, JJ Kissinger '02 ushered hundreds of high school students from all over the country into Seattle Pacific’s thriving community, where we would experience our most formative years yet. JJ and his wife, Lisa LaDue Kissinger '01, served as faithful cheerleaders for me throughout my education at SPU, and I loved belonging to a proud and cheeky Facebook cohort.
After graduation, I eventually landed a position managing volunteers with University Presbyterian Church’s program for families with seriously ill children: Side-by-Side. More than anything else, I learned the relentlessness of God's grace and generosity, even in circumstances that were impossibly sad and unfair.
Each August at Camp Side-by-Side, a weeklong vacation for families whose children have cancer, the spirit was joyful and fun, filled with water balloons, ice cream sandwiches, hilarious skits, and giggles en masse. For one sacred week, families experienced an oasis of hope and togetherness that was bigger than cancer, bigger than a relapse, and bigger than the worst-case scenario. In other words, through those ice cream sandwiches and the gift of friendship, families experienced the hope of Christ.
Now I am back at SPU working in the Alumni Center, but lo and behold, the newest team member at Side-by-Side is my old admissions counselor, JJ. He has taken the reins to continue the important work of serving Side-by-Side's families, and we laugh that our paths continue to zig and zag past one another.
I don’t know if JJ and I will trade places again, but I know my life’s path has been littered with great gifts and opportunity that started with seeds from SPU. A friendly invitation from an eager admissions counselor became the beginning of my long-term community, my deep Seattle roots, and my deep affection to our university.
—Holly Harris Wood '07, SPU Alumni and Parent Relations Coordinator