HULA (Harding University Latin America) directors Tom and Pam Hook are retiring from their positions 16 years after jumpstarting the program alongside Dr. Jeffrey Hopper, dean of international programs. Tom and Pam Hook became residents of Viña del Mar, Chile in 1981 where they served as missionaries and became fluent with the language and ingrained culture.
Their decision to retire was made in order to focus on Pam Hook’s health after she was diagnosed with gastroparesis in 2013. Since then, her condition has worsened forcing an earlier retirement than they had planned.
“The decision to retire has been made easier by the necessity to retire, and realizing there are no other options for us,” Pam Hook said. “That said, after having lived in Chile for so many years, it is a difficult one as well, as we know we will not return, due to my health.”
The Hook’s said that they would mostly miss being able to share Latin American with the students and faculty when they came to HULA during the spring semester.
“We will miss showing them the Lord’s church in Viña del Mar and watching their interactions with the brethren,” Pam Hook said. “We have been very, very blessed by this experience and are most thankful for the memories and opportunities Harding has provided. Another blessing is that we will be moving back to Searcy, as we have a home there, and will be able to continue to enjoy and participate when needed in the upcoming ones, as well as reminisce with past ‘HULAgans’ as Tom has called the students who have come to HULA since 2002.”
Pam Hook said HULA has benefitted her and her husband’s life by allowing them to influence the students, their perspectives on missions, their understanding of Latin American culture and seeing their eyes opened as they are integrated into a solid, functional mission congregation.
Former HULAgan, senior Jenna Randolph, described Tom and Pam Hook as her Chilean mom and dad.
“I absolutely adore Tom and Pam. They are the definition of the ‘cool parents,’” Randolph said. “They always encouraged fun and adventure and supported us in our goofy ideas for things to do while we were abroad.They took care of us, made us feel safe, and guided us throughout our trip of a life time.”
Junior Alicia Maners attended HULA in the spring of 2017 and said Tom and Pam Hook are more than directors to their students.
“They’re mentors. Knowing that they only have their students for three months, they make the most of every single day,” Maners said.
Tom and Pam Hook said they hope to be able to help the new directors in any way they can. The new directors’ will be announced at a later date.