COSTA MESA — Vanguard University began its 90th anniversary celebration in the world of higher education Thursday with a look at what some of its alumni have gone on to accomplish.
University officials, alumni and some cupcakes in the Great Commission Hall helped kick off the private Christian school's festivities, which will last 90 days.
The event was a chance to show off what Vanguard has done, but it also was a moment for alumni to say thank you for the foundation the school on Fair Drive has given them.
"What an incredible day to be a Vanguard alumni; so many of us have made a difference," said Olivia Klaus, class of 1999. "We've been able to make an impact, and it all started here. That's something I'm proud of, and something I'm thankful for."
Klaus, 32, went behind prison walls every other week for nine years to make a documentary about domestic violence and the women locked up for killing their abusive spouses.
The film, "Sin by Silence," was directed and produced by Klaus, and edited by fellow alumna Ann-Caryn Cleveland, 36.
The two graduated from Vanguard one year apart, both with degrees in communications with an emphasis in film.
"What many people don't realize is the seeds for the film were planted here," Klaus said.
It was after leaving Vanguard that Klaus said she got a call from a friend who admitted to being in an abusive relationship.
Not knowing where to turn, Klaus remembered hearing about a sociology professor at Vanguard, Elizabeth Leonard, who specialized in domestic violence. Klaus showed up at her office.
Leonard told Klaus she could give her books on the issue, but she could also talk to the experts: women who have survived domestic violence.
Together, they visited to the California Institution for Women state prison in Chino.
Klaus said she was hooked after meeting the women and started volunteering with them. Eventually, they asked her to tell their story.
It was a couple years into the project that Klaus got Cleveland involved.
Cleveland said she was at first on the opposite side of the spectrum and wondering why these women didn't just leave their abusive spouses.
"I used to think there was a way out … but it's so beyond that," she said.
It wasn't an easy journey for either woman to deal with such difficult and dark subject matter. There were many times Klaus said she wanted to give up.
But the responsibility of sharing the women's stories after they opened up to her kept her going, she said.
The two, who also teach at Vanguard, were able to bring students in on the project and give them real-world experience.
It was those opportunities, along with one-on-one relationships, that made all the difference when they went to Vanguard, Klaus said.
"It was the foundation that we received here that we were able to tackle such an ugly topic," Cleveland said.
For a list of events Vanguard is hosting for its 90th anniversary go to http://www.vanguard.edu/90.