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Spring 2006 | Volume 29, Number 2 | Alumni

Young Alums Tour the White House at Christmas

Destination D.C.

LAST DECEMBER, while the chief occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue pondered affairs of state, two Seattle Pacific University alumni prepared to call on the famous mansion. April Gentry Isenhower ’00, press secretary to Lynne Cheney, and Erika Lestelle Heikkila ’00, legislative director for Indiana Congressman Mark Souder, planned a Christmas tour of the historical presidential residence exclusively for young SPU alumni living in Washington, D.C.; Maryland; and Virginia.

The response was overwhelming. Within two days, the limit was met: 30 guests, most of whom graduated from Seattle Pacific between 1995 and 2005, would take one of the most coveted holiday tours in the country. The alumni represented a broad range of careers, including law, finance, military, international trade, education, journalism, and government. Some drove two or three hours to participate.

They were not disappointed. With the event’s theme “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” the alumni guests enjoyed a dazzling selfguided tour of the White House’s interior that featured a bountiful display of holiday plants, trees, fruit, flowers, and lights.

In the East Room, frequent site of presidential press conferences, the group encountered Christmas trees with hot-pink roses and white lights flanking the giant 18th-century crčche at the center of the room. A Christmas mainstay for 30 years, the White House’s Nativity figurines are made of terra cotta and carved wood. In the Blue Room stood the 18-foot Christmas tree decorated with fragrant white lilies, crystal garlands, and white lights. In the State Dining Room, the visitors beheld a stunning gingerbread replica of the north front of the residence. Made of 100 pounds of gingerbread and 150 pounds of white and dark chocolate, the home’s clear, poured-sugar windows reflected more white lights from within.

“It was wonderful and especially fun to meet alumni who attended SPU at the same time I did, but whom I didn’t know because we were in different academic programs or didn’t live in the same residence halls,” says Isenhower, a former Falcon newspaper editor and political science major. Heikkila arranged a breakfast reception across the street from the White House in the office conference room of her husband, Heath Heikkila, who is a lobbyist for a law firm.

“It’s a great example of the kind of program we plan across the nation to engage our alumni,” says Kathy Hitchcock, Seattle Pacific associate director for alumni relations. Other strategic geographical events have included the Oregon Shakespearean Festival; a tour of The Pentagon; and a Tulip Trek to Washington Bulb Company, the world’s largest tulipbulb- growing facility.

“Geographical representatives like April and Erika work hard to make the events memorable,” says Hitchcock. “They help keep our alumni involved in the ongoing work and vision of SPU.”


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