An unexpected trip

by Abbie (Lam Yuen) Watt '69, nursing


Abbie Watt is a retired nurse who currently volunteers with an organization to translate study guides on Ellen G. White’s writings into Samoan. She lives with her husband, Jonathan '69, in Vancouver, Washington.

I grew up in America Samoa, and my parents were pioneers in starting the church in American Samoa. My nine siblings and I grew up going to Catholic schools because they were the best schools on the island. For college, most students would go to Australia or New Zealand. But I had an American scholarship, and I ended up coming to the States and studying biology at Union College. After I graduated, I was planning to go to graduate school at the University of Idaho. Within the first week of classes there, I was anxious and stressed because I was not used to schools that size. It wasn’t a great fit.

That weekend, I attended church in Moscow, Idaho, and it was there I met Gary Patterson. He was the pastor of the College Place Church and he asked if I had heard of Walla Walla University. I had heard the name but didn’t know anything about it.

He asked, “Would you agree if I took you to Walla Walla so you can tour the campus and see if you like it?”

I told him about my scholarships and transcripts, and my worry that they wouldn’t transfer. It was also already registration week for the university. But he was enthusiastic that it could be a good fit for me. So I agreed, and, since I didn’t have any money to get there, he offered to drive me to WWU the very next day.

One of the first things I noticed was the friendliness of the campus. As I passed by, people said, “Hi.” Even the upperclassmen would direct you where to go. I remember talking to Wilma Leazer, who was the chair of the nursing department, and she sat down and helped me look at the curriculum and see what program would fit me best. They all really took time for me. It made me feel very comfortable. I felt more at home.

So, I registered for classes. My scholarship and transcripts transferred, and all of my things arrived by the end of the week. I hadn’t even had time to unpack at the University of Idaho, so it was easier to move.

I made so many friends there. And teachers and other families, like the Claridges, always took us in on weekends or vacations when other students went home. Coming from a small island, I was grateful to have found a small community where I felt comfortable.

My husband and I have returned to Walla Walla University almost every year for homecoming weekend. All my younger siblings eventually came to study here too. In total, at least 29 members of my family have now attended Walla Walla University. I felt very blessed to have met Elder Patterson on that day in 1967.

Portrait of Abbie Watt
Photo of Abbie Watt, her father, and her sister at Watt's graduation.
Watt graduated in 1969 with a nursing degree. Her father and sister, Alvina Lutu '72, helped her celebrate.
Group photo of Abbie Watt's family.
Except for Watt's two older sisters, all of her siblings attended Walla Walla University. Shown here with her siblings and parents, Watt is dressed in blue in the upper left.