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Rigorous scholarship. Research. Competitive athletics. Location. Most high school seniors choose a college based on predictable tangibles. What they overlook ironically becomes the most important aspect of their higher education – people. How could they know the difference a compassionate professor could make, or a president who prays with students? How could they know the power of relationship differentiates an academic degree from a life-giving education?

When Rick Dillon ’79 arrived on campus nearly three decades ago, he had one thing in mind – basketball. His business degree came second, and the Christian component carried no weight as he was not a believer at the time. It was all about the game until he got to know his coach, Cliff Hamlow, Ph.D., now vice president emeritus. “I had never met anyone like him,” said Dillon. “His diligence and commitment to me as an individual were amazing.” When a coach cares more about the player than points and performance, motivation changes, perspective shifts. “I came to know the Lord that first year. To this day as I give my testimony, it is Cliff Hamlow I credit with leading me to my salvation.”

Robyn (Delamarter ’81) Dillon came to the university with slightly different ambitions. On a music scholarship, violin was her passion and nursing was her game. As a Christian, she expected to learn from professors with the same beliefs, and probably grow spiritually during the process, but she could not have known the extent to which APU would change her life. “I was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease at the end of my freshman year,” she said. “APU wrapped its arms around me. They took care of me, helped me get into City of Hope, and even provided a place in the dorms so my mother could stay with me.” Experiences like these explain the Dillon’s long-time APU tradition.

“Tremendous fruit has come from our involvement at Azusa Pacific,” said Rick. “My parents and brother are now Christians. Our son, Darren, is currently a sophomore at APU, and daughter, Kara, begins in 2006. Neither ever considered any other school. Even our nieces and nephews have chosen APU. It is an extended family.” And like family, they champion the university’s people and plans. As President’s Circle donors supporting scholarships, athletics, music, and the event center for more than 15 years, the Dillons follow their family footsteps. Robyn’s parents, Guy and Dorothy Delamarter, have been President’s Circle members for more than 20 years – a relationship that flourishes for one reason. “President Wallace breaks down barriers,” said Rick. “Professors reach across their desks to connect with students.” Clearly, degrees do not inspire loyalty, and programs cannot replace relationships. It is the intimate connection between genuine people that elevates an education to deeply transformational scholarship.