Homecoming Week: PLNU Alumni Catch Up and Reminisce on Point Loma Memories

Photo from Molly Yanity. From left to right: Kerry's brother Mark (class of '00), Molly, Dean Nelson, Kerry, and Kerry's brother Steven (class of '05).

Kerry Michaelson (‘97) and Molly Yanity (‘96) were Point Weekly staff members who are back in San Diego for Homecoming. Michaelson lives in Nampa, Idaho and is a magistrate judge in Canyon County. Yanity is a journalism professor at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. Here, they share some of their PLNU memories. 

Kerry: I can’t believe it was nearly three decades ago when I stepped foot on the PLNU campus as a freshman. I was raised in a Nazarene home, in Idaho, and my childhood dream was to go to school there. How Nazarene was I, you ask? Over four years, I attended PLNU with my brother and five cousins from both sides of the family. 

Molly: The first time I was in San Diego, or had even heard of Point Loma, was five months before I attended my first class. The college hosted a high school sports journalism conference the spring of my senior year of high school. I won a trip to it. The gorgeous campus took my breath away. Dean Nelson inspired me from the moment I met him. I was hooked. But that contract – no dancing? Chapel three times a week? They couldn’t be serious, right?

Kerry: As a freshman, I wasn’t sure how I’d find a path forward making friends. After a few months on campus I found myself at a Point Weekly meeting. The older students graciously published a feature I wrote about how weird it was to grow up in Idaho and then move to San Diego for college. l mean, a fellow student actually asked me if Idahoans traveled by covered wagon (no, we owned cars). My article was well received and I discovered that I loved writing. I changed majors, spent the next four years reporting on interesting things that occurred on campus and made friends for life. Including Molly.

Molly: My first semester at Loma, I was, well, grounded. I got busted coming home intoxicated from Tijuana back when you didn’t need a passport to hit Avenida Revolución. I had a two-week bedcheck at 9 p.m. I also voted for the first time that fall – for Bill Clinton. The cheerleaders who lived across the hall cried when he won, convinced the Apocalypse was near. 

Kerry: If you haven’t realized this part about college yet, it’s a time in your life when you’re able to form opinions free of intense pressure from your family, and church. That’s true for every student. For young reporters, that also means reporting the truth, irrespective of the consequences. Molly, remember the flak we caught for publishing an expose on the abusive hazing practices of a campus fraternity?

Molly: I do! I also remember how many emails – oh, wait! They weren’t emails; we didn’t have access to the web, yet! I remember the phone calls and letters our staff received after I wrote a column expressing disgust over the campus visit of world-class homophobe Roger Hedgecock and the school’s affiliation with James Dobson. Those were tough to receive. But I didn’t stop writing and we didn’t stop investigating. Some of the columns I wrote embarrass me – not for the pro-choice or otherwise “liberal” slant I took – but for the immaturity of my argument, or that I certainly could have written more efficiently. 

Kerry: As Point Weekly staffers, we occasionally asked for forgiveness, not permission. One time, our edition was deemed “too controversial” for dissemination on campus (something about the words “spiritual” and “masturbation” in a headline). We broke into the storage room where the confiscated papers were hiding and handed them out, anyway. On graduation day. Knowing we could face disciplinary measures. Between late night burrito runs and classes, we learned that challenging others, in both word and action, is the only way to bring about positive change. 

Molly: Allow me to clarify that last point. I was actually walking across the commencement stage of the Greek Amphitheater when you and the non-seniors broke into the storage room… er, let yourselves in with the key I gave you. Thinking of those days still make me happy – how Jennifer Newlin put herself on the line to go undercover in a newly-formed sorority, how Bethany Willbanks found herself behind her camera, how Jessica Gerardy paved her way to the Peace Corps, how Jeremy Fry defended us so staunchly, and how Trisha Hubbs could write as eloquently about a local murder or “the Coop Bubbler.” What a group of people.

Kerry: In the years since we attended PLNU, both Molly and I have come out. We are both married to exceptionally cool women. We look back at our time on campus together and, upon reflection, understand why we didn’t talk to each other about the fact we were both gay (those conversations occurred many years later). When I wasn’t writing, much of my college experience was composed of chapel services, church services and Bible studies. Exodus International, a now defunct ministry whose stated goal was to “help people who wished to limit their homosexual desires” held their conventions on the PLNU campus. There was simply no space for young people, particularly those raised in religious homes, to come out. I am heartened to know that has changed. 

Molly: The Point Weekly, and our classes with Dean Nelson, were our touchstones. We remember superimposing “Dean, give Kerry an A” into one of Kerry’s feature stories that ran in an issue of The Point. We remember putting a gay pride sticker on a professor’s back bumper parked in her driveway off campus. But, for the life of us, we don’t remember meaningful conversations we had with each other, or spending much time together at all. It must’ve happened, but… maybe that is what 30 years does!  One thing is for certain, though; it all came together for us later in life. 

Kerry: I love that The Point Weekly is still going strong. I love that over the course of 30 years the PLNU campus has evolved, and that its leadership embraces diversity as opposed to running from it. Enjoy every minute of your college experience. 

Molly: Kerry and I have spent weeks in many states, across Zoom calls and text messages – most often with our spouses and mutual friends, laughing until our faces hurt, solving the world’s problems and genuinely being friends. And, herein lies the takeaway for Point Loma students who may read this: Keep your hearts open to the unexpected. Keep your minds open to the things that frighten you and to the people who question you, or who you question. If we had remained rigid in our views, absolute in our understanding of truth, categoric in our beliefs of who the other was, we would’ve missed out on 30 years of laughter, friendship, love and an army of people who keep giving those things to us. 

Contributors: Kerry Michaelson and Molly Yanity