Message from the President
At Pepperdine, we plan and prepare for the future as well as anyone. Each year I gather some of the best strategic thinkers at the University and ask them to identify and evaluate new opportunities. Planners from every corner of Pepperdine submit proposals designed to improve our current offerings or introduce initiatives that will attract new students.
Our planning also prompts us to find ways to minimize exposure to risk. Thanks to heads-up thinking from people like Rick Leach, director of facilities management, we implemented a brush abatement plan in the event the Malibu campus was threatened by fire. Last fall, we were hit, not once but twice by firestorms that destroyed millions of dollars of property throughout Southern California, but only scorched a tool shed on our campus.
Those who manage our finances and our investments were forward thinking enough to see the dark clouds of this current financial crisis building and made important and timely adjustments to our investment portfolio to minimize exposure. The damage to the endowment has still been significant, but not disabling.
This kind of planning both preserves and advances our mission. As I said, we plan and prepare as well as anyone. Yet, as strong as our planning process is, there is a weakness. Too often we develop and test our ideas among ourselves. Though our planners are bright and forward thinking, my concern is that this will lead to a kind of myopic, self-reinforcing vision of our future.
To overcome this impulse, a few colleagues and I set out across the country last year to meet with friends, alumni, and community leaders to envision Pepperdine's future. These small group sessions, usually held around a dinner table or in a living room, exceeded my expectations. I met creative men and women who have given considerable thought to Pepperdine and its potential. Some of their ideas have confirmed the course we have already charted for ourselves. Others have challenged us to think differently about our potential. Others have given me reason to believe we are still aiming too low. Each of their ideas has influenced my own thinking about Pepperdine.
At the same time we were traveling the nation, members of our alumni association also scattered across the country to engage alumni in the same kind of discussion. The ideas generated through these sessions may very well change the future of Pepperdine in a dramatic fashion.
Through the pages of this edition of the annual report, I invite you to participate in an envisioning session. Several friends, alumni, students, and faculty recently gathered at my and Debby's home on campus for a candid conversation about Pepperdine's opportunities and risks. Like other envisioning sessions, this one both affirmed and challenged my thinking. As you read the comments and responses, I am sure you will agree that opening a dialogue about Pepperdine's future was the right thing to do.
Andrew K. Benton