A Commencement unlike any the PLNU community has seen due to COVID-19 restrictions: Students driving up to the Greek, getting their temperatures scanned before taking the stage, only family allowed to follow and cheer from the stands.

In spite of this modified graduation ceremony for the class of 2020, Jeff (05) and Erin (07) Youngren found a way to make the drive-up celebration special for all of the students who attended. 

Over a period of four days, the Youngrens, who own and run a photography studio, volunteered their time to capture photos of this moment for each of the graduates. They also brought their team which consists of Point Loma alums Weston Bennett (13), Bronson Pate (05), and Crystal Pridmore (05). “We wanted to figure out how to make the whole thing special,” Jeff explained, “I got our team together and we figured out a way to do it, it was really neat to get to see each student have their moment.”

“The students got to walk across the Greek, have their photo with president Brower, and continue across to the side of the amphitheater where we took a formal photo and a fun photo of every student. It was so great getting to capture something so special for every student!” 

While this specific effort was especially important for so many, the Youngrens’ dedication in giving back to their alma mater goes beyond their work at Commencement. Both have managed to remain active with the university while also running their business and growing their family. Erin has served on the PLNU alumni board, and Jeff on the research associates board for the science department as well as the business alumni board where he currently serves. 

Erin’s desire to help PLNU comes from the ways the school gave back to her when she was a student. “I attended Point Loma on an academic scholarship, and that was huge for me. There’s no way I would have been able to attend without that. The fact that I was able to have such a great college experience and go to a private university out of state and study abroad, that was all because of the ways PLNU blessed me as a student. It’s huge for me to be able to give back to the school in order to benefit current and future students.” 

Jeff reflected on one of the final events he attended as a senior where “the alumni office gave everybody the encouragement to stay involved past graduation. I really took that to heart. We want to be involved with Point Loma because we have the desire to give back to the institution that means so much to us. We are forever grateful for all that Point Loma has done for us.” 

They both enjoy the opportunities to come back on campus and work with PLNU — the place where they met one another, earned their degrees, and learned from professors who shaped their lives. 

As a full-time photographer, there aren’t many moments where Jeff uses his degree in biology. But, he said, “here I am, a photographer, and I don’t use my degree at all. I often think back on if I would do the same degree path all over again. And my answer is yes, because of the professors. My favorite professor was Dr. McConnell. He was huge in my development as a person. Even though he was my biochem and microbiology professor, I learned so much from him about what it means to be a follower of Jesus, a scientist, and a person in the world. Many of my professors had a similar impact on me, I feel so fortunate.” 

It is this reminder of how much they enjoyed their time at PLNU which they shared as their motivation to stay involved: “We also joyfully donate financially and it’s nice to know that we are helping other students have the same experience we had and giving back in that way.” 

The Youngrens have shown the ways their love for the university has remained even after their undergraduate careers. Whether it was volunteering their time for PLNU’s graduates or acting in the best interest of current students while sitting on various boards, their desire to be involved has made an impact on the lives of many.

The Youngrens have also been honored with a 2021 PLNU Homecoming Alumni Award. To learn more, visit the PLNU Homecoming website.

Micah Renner is a writer with a passion for helping people tell their stories.