Change Your Brain


Before Dr. Jesse Payne ’06, MA ’09 became the Director of Undergraduate Teacher Education at Corban University, and the Director of Education at the Amen Clinics, he was someone who witnessed the power of brain disorders and mental illness firsthand. Some researchers have the fortune of selecting an area of study simply due to interest, or on the advice of an advisor. For Dr. Payne, the complexity and pain associated with brain disorders seemed to choose him. Growing up, his parents who showered him with love and support, also revealed mental illness through issues such as schizophrenia, depression, and ADHD before his father took his life. The mystery of the developing mind wasn’t a far off concept; it was something that hit close to home.


Article-Jesse-and-DanielIn addition to being a professor and researcher, Dr. Payne recently released Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (Before 25), and it has quickly received powerful feedback. The book, a follow-up to fellow Vanguard alumnus Dr. Daniel Amen’s ‘78 NY Times Bestseller, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, shows students, parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors how they can unlock the ability to shape the developing mind. What many parents and students don’t realize is that the brain continues to develop into the mid to late 20’s. By taking care of the developing mind and optimizing it now through lifestyle changes and training, you can help unlock your chances of achieving your most aspirational dreams.


As Jesse’s own mind was being shaped, it was his time at Vanguard that helped him refocus and push forward in his academic pursuits. He came to Vanguard as a transfer student from community college, where he had grown frustrated with higher education. It was at Vanguard where he felt like more than simply a student, he felt like a valued member of a community. Completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Vanguard’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies (SGPS), he knew he wasn’t alone – that there were others including professors and students who wanted him to succeed.


Vanguard was a place where he valued a diversity of viewpoints from professors and classmates alike. In the SGPS programs, he appreciated the diversity of thought, race, and faith backgrounds, all under the context of a Christian faith community. He contrasts his time at Vanguard, with his other schooling, including his doctoral degree from another institution. Professors at Vanguard bring real world experience, but they don’t just lecture and leave, they are open to connecting outside of the classroom – desiring to see students succeed.


Article-Change-Your-BrainDuring his master’s program, when considering what might be next, a transitioning coworker with multiple advanced degrees offered one piece of advice, “Keep learning, and keep happy.” The advice wasn’t a simple recipe for success, but rather advice from someone who recognized that Dr. Payne has an inquisitive mind. At the time, Dr. Payne wasn’t sure whether he should pursue a doctoral degree, but the advice helped him recognize his aspirations.


Spending time with Dr. Payne, you quickly realize he is a passionate and driven individual. More than anything, he hopes his research and book provides insights for young people who may be struggling, and adults who want to see their young person thrive. Never lose hope! The current reality does not need to be the long-term reality.

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (Before 25) is available wherever books are sold.

Life Without Parole

“Life Without Parole”


Elizabeth LeonardWith the passing of our esteemed colleague and friend, Dr. Elizabeth Dermody Leonard, many of our alumni have asked how they can be part of remembering her legacy. While details surrounding her memorial are still in discussion we would like to share with you an impactful way for you to participate in remembering and furthering the work that Dr. Leonard was a part of. Warren Doody, Vanguard Professor of English, has teamed up with the New York Fringe Festival to produce the play he wrote based on Dr. Leonard’s work. Below is his letter to the community:


As many of you know, I wrote a play, “Life Without Parole,” that was inspired by Elizabeth Leonard’s research and book, “Convicted Survivors: The Imprisonment of Battered Women Who Kill.” Although it is essentially her work that is onstage, Elizabeth asked me to substitute “inspired” for “based on” or “adapted from” because she didn’t want to take too much credit for what I wrote, which perfectly sums up who she was as a person. In fact, Elizabeth first approached me about turning her life’s work into a stage play because she was looking for ways to expand her message of justice and believed that theater offered a wider audience for dong so.

In August, the play will be produced at the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival and, in honor of Elizabeth, the shows are being dedicated to her life and legacy. This dedication is featured on the website, on the campaign site, and in the brochures/programs at the festival. I know that Elizabeth would be thrilled with the creative team behind the Fringe Production: Working Artists Theater Project is the company that is putting on the play, which will be directed by one of their founders, Jessica Dermody, who, “coincidentally enough,” shares Elizabeth’s last name – well, her maiden name; the company is working in association with Karah Gravatt, a ’11 VU Theater Arts alum, who has been tireless in promoting the play and its message of domestic violence awareness.

As a way to raise money for the production, this team is crowdfunding the project. They are not asking for huge donations; the donations begin at $10.00 and go up from there, and it is 100% tax deductible. I have reached out via Facebook with this request, and some of you may have already seen a facsimile of this message on your newsfeed.

If you would be interested in making a donation, there are two sites at which to do so: - This is the play’s website, and there is a “donate” button/category on the home page. – This is the IndiGoGo site, and you can donate/contribute directly through the site.

In lieu of a donation, simply spreading the word by sharing these links via e-mail or on social media will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

Prayerfully and respectfully,

Warren Doody
Professor of English

Life Without

Obituary: Peter Lloyd Johnston ’97


By Peter Johnston’s Family

Peter Lloyd Johnston passed away unexpectedly from a rock-climbing accident on June 2, 2014. He was 38.

He was born on June 29, 1975, in the San Diego area. Raised in Poway, California, along with his two older sisters, Peter graduated from high school in 1993. He attended Vanguard University in Costa Mesa where he met his future wife, Jennifer Cannon.

Peter graduated in 1997 with a degree in Pastoral Care and Counseling and a minor in Business. Peter held his first pastoral position at Safe Harbor Church in Tustin while also working with children in a group home setting. This is where he met 5-year-old Mark, the special boy whom would later become Peter and Jennifer’s son.

Peter and Jennifer were married on October 25, 1997. In 2000, they moved to Desert Hot Springs where Peter was instrumental in starting a group home for boys, Father’s Heart Ranch, which continues to serve children to this day. It was there his love for the fatherless began to flourish. After their son Alex was born in 2003, Peter and Jennifer moved to the mountains where Peter became Worship Pastor at The Lighthouse Church in Mammoth Lakes. During that time, Peter entrepreneured a business called Mammoth Front Desk, and worked alongside his father to promote and franchise that dream.

For a time he also worked as the town Tax Collector and the Administrative Pastor of The Lighthouse Church. This is where their son, Aaron, was born in 2007. In 2009, the family moved to Kapa’au, Hawaii, where they continued to pursue new ministry and business opportunities. Their long-awaited daughter, Alyma Joy, was born in Hawaii in 2009. Leaving the islands in November of 2010, they later settled in Jennifer’s hometown of Redding, where Peter’s family still resides.

Peter is survived by his wife and four children, his mother and father, two sisters, and many nieces and nephews.

While we mourn his loss, we rejoice that he is with his Savior, the One he so passionately pursued. His contagious smile will be dearly missed, along with his music and creative business mind. We love you, Peter.


A memorial service in Redding will be held at the Twin View campus of Bethel Church on Thurs., June 12, at 1 p.m. In Mammoth Lakes, there will be a celebration of life at The Lighthouse Church on Thurs., June 26, at 2 p.m.

A memorial fund has been established for Peter’s family through Bethel Church, where gifts may be sent to this address: 933 College View Drive, Redding, CA 96003. Checks should be made payable to Bethel Church noting the code BR321PJ in the memo. Or call (530) 246-6000 extension 1446 and ask for Katherine.

Breathing for Laura (Ely) Brock ’04

Brock Family

Please pray for John Brock ’04 and his family as his wife Laura (Ely ’04) passed away earlier this month.

Last April, Laura underwent a lung biopsy and was diagnosed with an Interstitial Lung Disease called Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. Over the course of the year, Laura underwent multiple tests, doctor and hospital visits, and was in ICU Fully Intubated and on a Ventilator, as she awaited a double-lung and heart transplant.

Laura’s memorial service will be held this Saturday, June 14 at Newport Mesa Church at 10 AM.

Newport Mesa Church
2599 Newport Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

To read more about the Brock’s story and also to stay updated, visit

“Breathing for Laura”

Brock Family

Please pray for John ’04 and Laura (Ely ’04) Brock and their family.

Last April, Laura underwent a lung biopsy and was diagnosed with an Interstitial Lung Disease called Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. Over the course of the year, Laura has undergone multiple tests, doctor and hospital visits, and is currently in ICU Fully Intubated and on a Ventilator, as she awaits a double-lung transplant.

A Brock family member wrote: “When we are stressed or under pressure, we’re told to “TAKE A DEEP BREATH” Ironically, this is exactly what Laura struggles to do daily, to simply be able to take a breath. We ask that you take a Breath for Laura!”

To read more about the Brock’s story and also to stay updated, visit

Tim Shaw ’89 and THINK Together

On Tuesday, March 5, Tim Shaw ’89 was named the Chief Development Officer of THINK Together. Congratulations, Tim!Tim Shaw

THINK Together, an acronym for “Teaching, Helping, Inspiring & Nurturing Kids,” is a successful, nonprofit education organization in California, also being one of the largest in the state. THINK Together provides early literacy, after-school, small group tutoring, summer learning, and many more academic support programs to students in need. This nonprofit serves over 100,000 students all over California, reaching school districts in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and many parts of the Sacramento area.

Tim looks forward to working with those a part of THINK Together, bringing more service and help to students in need. Tim graduated from Vanguard University majoring in history and political science. We’re so glad that he has been able to touch so many lives and become so successful after his time here at Vanguard!

To learn more about Tim and his career, THINK Together and before, follow:

Connect with Tim on LinkedIn:

Yogurtini self-serve franchise has an exciting future ahead of them!

               On Monday, January 14, the famous Yogurtini self-serve franchise based in Tempe, Arizona, founded by our very own Natasha Nelson ’98 along with her sister, Chelsey, was acquired by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Inc. Just the idea of the corporation buying Yogurtini allowed the sisters to imagine the expansion and opportunities their yogurt franchise could obtain, which made it an obvious decision whether to say yes or no to the deal.

                With a total of 30 Yogurtini franchises appearing nationwide and almost 50 self-serve yogurt franchises within Rocky Mountain, there will be over 70 yogurt locations across the United States through the combination of Yogurtini and Rocky Mountain. Both companies believe that the competitive edge of their franchises will increase through coming together as one corporation. This creates endless possibilities of new improvements for both Yogurtini and Rocky Mountain, making the future of the acquisition more exciting.

Vanguard is proud of the Nelson sisters and excited to see where their success will take them next! For more information about the Nelson sisters and their Yogurtini adventure, visit the Yogurtini website to see how Rocky Mountain’s acquisition will help Yogurtini to continue to spread across the nation!

John Newcomb ‘95 and “The Tree with No Branches”

Congratulations to our very own, John Newcomb ‘95, (who writes under the pen name, Johnny Knew) on his very first published children’s book! Johnny’s short story, The Tree with No Branches, was released last week, on September 24. During Johnny’s time at Vanguard University, he received his Bachelor of Arts in Biology and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

The Tree with No Branches is the first of six children’s books that Johnny plans to publish. Each of Johnny’s short stories present Christian values, teaching children moral beliefs and behaviors through fun stories. The Tree with No Branches is a short story about a tree that grows up on the inside rather than the outside, like all of the other trees. This tree spends his time growing in a way that can’t be seen, but instead growing his roots deeper than any other tree. Johnny’s message to his readers is that deep roots help weather the storm, just like how Matthew 7:24-27 tells the story of the wise man that built his house on the rock and was able to withstand the storm. All of Johnny’s children books will focus on issues such as perseverance, bullying, accepting others, love, and how parents can teach their young children to have a loving, Christian heart in every situation. Johnny’s next short story, Phoebe the Swimlazy Fish, is scheduled to release in December, 2012.

The Tree with No Branches can currently be purchased on Amazon and in the near future in local bookstores. Congratulations again, Johnny, and thanks for letting us know of your success!

Click here to learn more about Johnny and The Tree with No Branches.

Kristina Kuzmic ’01 leads Cooking Demo

On Saturday, September 22, Family Weekend received a special treat!

Parents submitted hilarious kitchen stories to nominate their current Vanguard student to be the guest chef for the morning. Kristina Kuzmic ’01, host of The Ambush Cook on the Oprah Winfrey Network, provided a cooking demonstration for President Carol Taylor and that student.

A breakfast buffet took place on the Heath Lawn after the demonstration. Both President Taylor and Kristina shared their Vanguard stories with all in attendance. The event was hosted by the Vanguard Parent Relations and Alumni Relations office.

Stay in the know about Kristina Kuzmic –


Click here to read the article in the Daily Pilot.

Pictures from SCBC past

Recently, the daughter of a Southern California Bible College (SCBC) graduate, came across these photos while sifting through photos in her parents’ house, after her father’s passing. Paul Boyd, SCBC student in the late 1930′s/early 1940′s, sang in the college choir and also played in the orchestra.

The photo below is of the choir/orchestra getting ready to leave on tour. Paul Boyd was taking the photograph and on the far right is well-known gospel singer Jack Holcomb.

This photo is in the dining hall of the SCBC campus in Pasadena, CA.

Thank you to Nancy Katz for sending in these photos and precious memories of what college life was like in Vanguard University’s early days. Ms. Katz is the daughter of Paul Boyd and mother of Georgia Lynne Netty (an SCC grad). These photos are an outstanding reminder of the stories from the past that shape and influence the Vanguard University stories of today.