A Faithfully Forward Family

February 21, 2023

When Melvin Eugene Warburton 1888 enrolled in Houghton Seminary in the mid-1880s, he couldn’t have imagined the impact the institution would have on himself and his family for generations. In 1888, M.E. Warburton became the first graduate of Houghton Seminary and spent his life serving as a Wesleyan pastor.

Likewise, in 1901, the first graduate of the “advanced department” (i.e., the college program prior to accreditation) – John Starbuck Willett 1901 – couldn’t have dreamed that, over 100 years later, his family would still play a significant role in life at Houghton. Both a Houghton Seminary preparatory graduate and an “advanced” graduate, Willett became a Wesleyan pastor, the editor of the denominational magazine, a frequent campus guest and an occasional baccalaureate speaker.

Mr. Warburton’s niece Edith (Warburton 1916) and Mr. Willett’s nephew Charles Pocock 1923 continued the legacy when they married after graduating from the advanced department at Houghton Seminary and subsequently completing bachelor’s degrees. Edith threw herself into life at Houghton, serving as Editor-in-Chief for the Houghton STAR, competing in intramural Basketball, and becoming well-known as a campus debater and orator. Charles was also engaged on campus, playing three different intramural sports – basketball, baseball and track – and writing for the Houghton STAR. Charles later served on the Alumni Board, and the Pococks were named Alumni of the Year in 1989.

While the Pococks were raising their two children, another legacy family enrolled at Houghton College. In 1939, Allen R. Smith ’43 (whose father, Henry R. Smith, began teaching at Houghton in 1908) and Esther (Fulton ’43) Smith began their studies. Allen graduated alongside his future wife – Esther – with a dual major in physics and mathematics and a minor in German. Esther completed a dual major in Christian education and Greek with a minor in history. Allen was active in the Boulder and band while Esther joined intramural basketball and art club. Allen and Esther dedicated their careers to Houghton College, Allen as the college’s printing press manager and Esther as a linotype operator and then a receptionist. Allen served the college for over forty years, and they both retired in 1986.

Richard Pocock ’55, son of Charles and Edith Pocock, studied at Houghton, where he completed a BA in social science and mathematics and minored in education. He was active on campus, participating in band, choir and Science Club. After completing advanced degrees, he returned to his alma mater as a professor of mathematics in 1959, teaching until his retirement in 1995, when he was named Faculty Emeritus. His wife, Betty Jane (Goodwin ’56) Pocock, was also a Houghton graduate, majoring in English and German and minoring in education.

In the 1970s, the Smith and Pocock families had students enrolled at the same time. Audrey (Smith ’79) Pocock, daughter of Allen and Esther Smith, completed a degree in Christian education with minors in Bible and psychology. Steven Pocock ’79, son of Richard and Betty Jane, completed a major in Bible with a minor in Philosophy. The rest, as they say, is history; these two legacy Houghton families joined when Audrey and Steve married. Today, Audrey serves at Houghton University as the Senior Financial Aid Counselor.

Between 2004 and 2012, 10 grandchildren and grandchildren-in-law of Richard and Betty Jane Pocock attended Houghton, pursuing degrees as varied as music performance, psychology, intercultural studies, computer science and English.

While the youngest generation of the Smith-Pocock family are too young to peruse college brochures, the Smith-Pocock connection is still in the student body today. In December of 2022, Audrey’s great-nephew, Jacob Kuhlkin ’22, received one of the first degrees from Houghton University as an international development major.

In the April 8, 1911, edition of the Houghton STAR, John Willett remarked, “Our Alma Mater stands for a period in our life when we needed, and she so faithfully gave, the right kind of help; broadened our vision and erected ideals that have held us steady in the stress and strain of life.”

In a remarkably similar manner, Jacob Kuhlkin remarked in September of 2021, “Houghton has provided me with a spiritual backbone while away from home. I lean on chapel services and Godly friends…Houghton helped me see that what I really want is to humble myself and put my intelligence to work for the world.”

It seems we can say, with M.E. Warburton, “The Houghton of then was different from that of today in many ways, yet the most important elements that characterize the school today were in evidence then…” (Houghton Star, April 7, 1912).

Images from left to right:
Melvin Warburton is labeled in this photo as standing in the back row.

John Willett
The Warburton Women
The Class of 1923 including Charles Pocock
Steve and Audrey (Smith) Pocock from the 1979 Boulder
Allen R. Smith ’43, is surrounded by 14 of his 19 grandchildren at a gathering in 2010, 8 of the grandchildren graduated from Houghton.
Jacob Kuhlkin ’22

Did you know?

The Smith-Pocock family isn’t the only family with an incredible legacy. Houghton University professors Amanda (Young ’01) Cox and Alison (Young ’07) Reusser, along with alumna Hilary (Young) Gunning ’07, are the daughters of retired staff member Deborah (Fero ’76) Young, the granddaughters of Homer Fero ’33, and the great-granddaughters of Houghton Seminary graduate Pearl (Strong 1893) Fero.