The River Gives as Much as it Receives - Christine Grimm

s a freshman at Seaver College, I was constantly challenged by new ideas, experiences, and people. Many concepts were easy to grasp. Others were not so clear. In my first year, one concept that didn’t resonate with me was the University’s motto, a reference to George Pepperdine’s favorite New Testament scripture that says: “Freely Ye Received, Freely Give.” Frankly, my suitemates and I thought it was some kind of joke; it seemed to us that a Pepperdine education was anything but free.

Still, I understood that my education was of great value, and though I couldn’t articulate it then, I understood that I was changing. During my four years, experiences and relationships fundamentally challenged me—forcing me to make some very “grown up” decisions at a time when I could not comprehend their lasting imprints. Most of these transformational moments took place outside the classroom, and although the years have softened the details, special moments and people remain vivid in my memory: Dr. Michael Gose relentlessly pushed me to abandon my comfort zone and get involved in student government; then executive vice president Andy Benton coached me as student body president to approach high-stakes, emotional issues with professional objectivity; and Dr. Claudette Wilson modeled the behaviors of a Christian woman who was graceful and service-minded, while still influential and assertive.

Of course, many other staff and faculty freely contributed to my growth. I especially remember Dr. Dan Caldwell, Dr. Victoria Myers, Rich Dawson, and Sara Jackson. But as a current volunteer with the University, I realize that there must have been many more in the shadows—alumni, donors, and staff who added generously yet anonymously to my development. These people quietly, deliberately empowered me with new behaviors, all of which felt foreign and uncomfortable, but allowed me a level of impact and influence to truly make a difference.

Prepared to Make a Difference

My Pepperdine experience cannot be confined within four short years because the relationships I built then live on. Upon graduation, I married a Seaver College alumnus, Bill Grimm, in Stauffer Chapel, with Dr. Michael Gose and my father, John DiBattista (MBA ’85, GSBM) performing the ceremony. Yet even with these personal connections, I did not stay consistently engaged with the University. For years Bill and I drifted far from Pepperdine, busy with two small children, my consulting business, and Bill’s printing company. It did not seem important or relevant for us to attend functions, engage with alumni, or give back to Pepperdine. In fact, we were not totally convinced that this needed to be a priority.

Turning Points

Several years ago, Bill and I were visiting dear friends and reminiscing about our fond college days when the conversation took a turn and revealed a disturbing trend. Each of us, once so engaged with our alma mater, had disconnected from each other and the University. As I listened to my friends, I was sad and disturbed that we had fallen away from a place we all called “home.”

I imagine a global web of alumni who find incredible value in maintaining social and professional connections to and through the University.

In the following months, I informally surveyed my extended circle of Pepperdine friends. I learned that while many had never given to the University, most would never consider doing so and saw no reason to attend Homecoming or campus events. I wondered how a school like Pepperdine, dedicated to solid Christian values and focused on building character, could have such a weak connection to the body that is the school’s dividend to society.

Around the same time, I heard now president Andy Benton, say “The University mission means nothing if it is not lived out in the lives of the alumni.” I approached Andy asking how alumni issues were prioritized in University strategy and how he planned to engage alums in a new and different way. His answer was clear.

Engaged in a Life of Pepperdine

With his vision of a mutually engaged community of students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors, and friends, I began to imagine a different Pepperdine. Pepperdine’s mission and contribution to its students and, by extension, the community at large is unique and incomparable. This being true, I believe that our relationship with stakeholders must also be unique.

I envision students learning and growing through interaction with faculty, alumni, and administration. I see each graduating student facing a multitude of opportunities as they are ushered into their adult life by a robust and supportive Pepperdine community.

I imagine a global web of alumni who find incredible value in maintaining social and professional connections to and through the University. I see them participating in continuous learning, serving and mentoring others, and nurturing meaningful relationships with Pepperdine people.

Students today are just beginning to learn what service and leadership actually mean. Only when they establish themselves as individuals, partners, parents, citizens, and leaders do they truly have the opportunity to practice and advance the mission set forth by George Pepperdine almost 70 years ago. What was his favorite scripture again? Freely you received. Freely give!

Christine Grimm is a 1990 graduate of Seaver College and founder of the Pepperdine Ambassadors Council. She is the Principal Consultant of TES, Inc., a strategic consulting and executive development firm. She is currently working with Pepperdine to establish the Alumni Leadership Council.