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Summer 2006 | Volume 29, Number 3 | Features

First Lady

For 10 years, Sharon Eaton has used her gift of hospitality to make friends for Seattle Pacific

WHEN PHILIP EATON BECAME Seattle Pacific’s president in 1996, he wasn’t the only Eaton with a vision for the University. “We were both excited about the challenges of the job and the opportunity to make an impact on the future of SPU,” explains his wife, Sharon Eaton.

A first-time first lady, Eaton brought to the task a simple philosophy: “I see my role as a supportive one,” she explains. “First and foremost, supportive of my husband in every way I can be, and also supportive of his initiatives however possible.”

Eaton, who taught elementary school for 15 years before becoming an interior designer in Phoenix, Arizona, says SPU ’s commitment to grace-filled community is something she takes to heart — every day. That means drawing on her gift of hospitality as she welcomes faculty, staff, students, and other visitors to Hillford House, the presidential home. “In the 10 years Phil has been president, we have had more than 15,000 people into our home,” she says.

Also at the top of her list is joining her husband as they “make new friends for the University” while maintaining friendships with longtime supporters. “Phil is challenged to develop the next generation of partners for the University,” she notes, “and I am working side by side with him in this.”

But, as with any job, there are challenges. “We are still learning how to manage the demands of being the ‘first couple,’” laughs Eaton, who enjoys reconnecting with her husband over dinner when they both have a free evening. “We always discuss what we are excited about as well as what is challenging at the moment. I love that we can share those things together.”

Eaton and her husband also share a love of great literature. On her reading list these days is Simply Christian by N.T. Wright, Christ the Lordby Anne Rice, and a book of quotes by Pope John Paul II . Unlike her husband, however, Eaton doesn’t describe herself as a poetry fan. Still, she does have a soft spot for a certain poet: “Some of my favorite poems are personal ones that my husband has written for me on special occasions — to tear-jerking effect.”

Beyond wife, mother of three sons, and first lady, Eaton also wears another important hat: grandmother. “Being a grandparent [to five grandchildren] has been a surprisingly delightful stage in life,” she says. On a recent trip to England to visit one of the couple’s sons and his wife, they were given a tour of Oxford by grandson Andrew — a firstgrader. “We were amazed,” she remembers, “at how he knew his way around Oxford on foot and could take us on a tour and point out interesting sights all by himself.”

When she looks back on a decade at Seattle Pacific, Eaton says she can see God at work. “This is a wonderful community of bright, committed, and caring people who are bonded in their Christian faith and this place. What a gift to be part of it!”

By Sarah Jio


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