Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

‘Expression of gratitude’

“The small classes and teaching at Redlands helped me gain the confidence and skills to thrive at Harvard,” says Jessica Moore Strysko ’09 (left), who met her husband, Tim Strysko ’09 (right), in a U of R religious studies class. (Photo by William Vasta)

When Tim Strysko ’09 and Jessica Moore Strysko ’09 began a Christian Scriptures class in the Meditation Room as students, they recognized each other as kindred spirits. Both were pursuing degrees in religious studies and English, so their academic interests aligned. “We started having conversations about what we were learning and how to think about it,” recalls Tim. They became a couple the following fall, with their first date in the Rose Garden next to the Hall of Letters.

When reflecting on those who made an impact on them at Redlands, the couple identifies faculty members, including Fran Grace, Lillian Larsen, Judith Tschann, and John Walsh (who was also the chaplain who performed the couple’s wedding ceremony). “We had incredible professors who mentored us and invested time in our learning and development,” says Jessica.

After graduation, the Stryskos moved to Massachusetts, where Jessica attended Harvard Divinity School. “I would have never considered applying if it weren’t for Lillian [Larsen]’s encouragement. The small classes and teaching at Redlands helped me gain the confidence and skills to thrive at Harvard.” Today, she serves as an associate pastor at First United Methodist Church of San Diego, responding to a calling she received at age 14.

Tim attributes the University’s liberal arts foundation to his career in human resources. “I loved learning about different religions and cultures and discovered more about myself with each class. As a result, I was better able to relate to others and understand their wants and motivations.” After earning a master’s in business administration from University of San Diego, he runs his own human resources business serving the craft brew industry.

Having benefited from financial aid as students, the Stryskos made a gift to the Redlands Fund Scholarship in 2014. “We want to be intentional about our giving,” notes Jessica, “and we believe the act of giving itself is an expression of gratitude, no matter the amount.” They are also working with Larsen to organize reunions with religious studies alumni, students, and faculty.

During the upcoming Giving Day on Thursday, April 4, the couple will sponsor a challenge for young alumni. “We are hoping to encourage others to give back to an area that impacted them, like the Religious Studies Department did for us,” says Tim. “It took a few years before we started giving back, but it’s a good way to keep this place on your mind in the present.”