The Year in Review

A year at Pepperdine University is far from ordinary.

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As the seasons change, they reveal academic development, athletic achievement, and meaningful service among students and faculty. Distinguished guests bring knowledge and expertise to our campuses, while outstanding Pepperdine people share their gifts with the world. Each extraordinary moment highlights an element of what makes Pepperdine so special. Here we pause to look back at a few of the memorable things that happened in 2008.

Notable Authors, Scholars, and Lecturers

Alan Dershowitz

Alan Dershowitz

Defense Attorney Alan Dershowitz Discusses Law and Public Policy with Dean Starr

Acclaimed criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz visited Pepperdine this year and spoke candidly on law and public policy. The Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School conversed with School of Law dean Ken Starr, who holds notably opposite viewpoints from Dershowitz. “It was wonderful to have a scholar and a professor of Dershowitz’s reputation and renown join us here at Pepperdine,” remarked law professor Samuel Levine, who moderated the conversation. “The interaction between Professor Dershowitz and Dean Starr was lively and informative for the students and faculty who attended. Dershowitz expressed legal and political viewpoints that aren’t always heard at Pepperdine.”

Wilson Explores Genetic Basis of Political Beliefs in Annual Lecture

James Q. Wilson, Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy, explored the possibility that people gain their political views not from their parents’ teaching, but from their genetic makeup in his annual lecture, this year titled, “The Genetic Basis of Political Views.” “For generations scholars have assumed that young persons learn their political views from their parents, but new evidence suggests two ways in which this view may be wrong,” Wilson says. “First, our genes have a large influence on our politics and second, the effect of the environment comes largely from friends rather than parents.”

Justice Clarence Thomas with Shelley Saxer, Associate Dean.

Justice Clarence Thomas with Shelley Saxer

Supreme Court Justices Address Pepperdine Audiences

The School of Law continued its tradition of bringing Supreme Court Justices to Pepperdine by hosting Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas. Roberts served as a judge for the Vincent S. Dalsimer Moot Court Competition and headlined the 31st Annual School of Law Dinner. Thomas delivered the second annual William French Smith Memorial Lecture. Thomas spoke in conversation with litigation attorney Charles R. Eskridge (JD '90) and Shelley Saxer, associate dean for academics at the School of Law. Dean Ken Starr moderated the conversation.

“Justice Thomas’ visit to Pepperdine was definitely one of the highlights of my legal career, if not my life,” said Jerren Wright (class of '09), president of the Student Bar Association. “While attending lunch with the Justice, I was profoundly impacted by his broad wisdom, candid anecdotes, and passion to serve. Overall, it reflects very positively on our community to attract such an amazing jurist and person to share his time with us.”

School of Public Policy Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

The School of Public Policy celebrated its 10th anniversary with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. At the anniversary dinner members of the SPP community celebrated the accomplishments of the last decade and articulated the school’s intent and aspirations for the future. “Governor Bush impressed upon all of us the importance of family, loyalty, and morality when embarking on a career in politics,” noted Nicolas Valbuena (class of '09). “I was personally inspired by meeting him after his speech. I was able to ask him questions that would relate to my career path. I am grateful for the School of Public Policy’s dedication to exposing us to leaders in government and will remember the 10th Anniversary Dinner as a highlight of my experience at Pepperdine.”

Seaver College noted scholars and authors

Seaver College Hosts Noted Scholars and Authors

The W. David Baird Distinguished Lecture Series welcomed biologist Kenneth Miller (a) on Darwin and Christian faith, author Tobias Wolff (b) on memoir and fiction, theatre historian Charlotte Canning (c) on U.S. theatre and Cold War foreign policy, and evangelical scholar Mark Noll (d) on the significance of hymnody in American religious history. Business ethicist Marianne Jennings (e) explained what makes really smart and good people do really dumb and unethical things, and scholar Stephen Post (f) described why good things happen to good people.

Top Business Leaders Headline Dean’s Executive Leadership Series

The Graziadio School’s acclaimed Dean’s Executive Leadership Series featured Deborah Platt Majoras, chair of the Federal Trade Commission; Andy Bird, president of Walt Disney International; Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group; Robert Eckert, chair and CEO of Mattel, Inc.; Robert Simpson, president and COO of Jelly Belly Candy Company; and Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez. All lectures are made available to podcast at

Also in the news:

  • The GSEP Multicultural Issues Impacting Community Speaker Series welcomed scholar Molefi Kete Asante.
  • Pepperdine hosted a broad spectrum of conferences and symposia, including “Revolution through Social Enterprise,” “Foreign Policy in the Post-Bush Era,” and “Free Speech and Press in the Modern Age.”
  • Michael Levi, one of the United States’ most respected authorities on the threat of nuclear terrorism, came to speak on his area of expertise.
  • Stanford economics professor John B. Taylor delivered a lecture on international finance in a post-9/11 world.

News and Achievements

Pepperdine Welcomes Outstanding New Faculty

The success of any university can be measured most effectively by the people it attracts. This year, Pepperdine welcomed 37 faculty members across all five schools. Each professor possesses unique talents and gifts, a commitment to uphold the highest academic standards, and a common purpose to serve and empower students. For the full list of new hires, please visit

Fulbright Scholarship Winners

Fulbright Scholarship Winners

Five Pepperdine Students Receive U.S. Student Fulbright Awards

A record number of Pepperdine students were awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student scholarship, leading five recent Seaver College graduates to teach or study overseas for the 2008–2009 academic year.

Three of the five recipients earned English language teaching assistantships: Alissa Smith ('08) (1) is now teaching in Turkey, Erin Shitama ('08) (2) in Indonesia, and Brian Clark ('06) (3) in Spain. The other two recipients were awarded full grants to undertake graduate research: Keith Colclough ('08) (4) is studying language in Germany, while biology major Laura Merwin ('08) (5) is in Australia examining plants in drought and fire-prone ecosystems.
The five Pepperdine students are among 1,100 U.S. Fulbright scholars who will travel abroad next year.

“We had 16 applicants,” says former Seaver College dean David Baird. “To think that five of the seven finalists received the grant is quite gratifying. It is an incredible affirmation of the quality of our students, faculty, and staff.”

Pepperdine Faculty Author New Books

Several faculty published new books this year. A partial list includes Pulitzer Prize-winner Ed Larson, who tells the story of America’s closest-ever presidential election in A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign (Simon & Schuster, 2007); and Susan Hall, associate professor of psychology at GSEP, who looked at the legal and psychological adjustments that can be made for child witnesses in Courtroom Modifications for Child Witnesses: Law and Science in Forensic Evaluations (American Psychological Association, 2008).

Other new faculty books include:

  • Martin Luther King and the Rhetoric of Freedom: The Exodus Narrative in America’s Struggle for Civil Rights, by Gary Selby, Blanche E. Seaver Professor of Communications
  • Faith and Law: How Religious Traditions from Calvinism to Islam View American Law (NYU Press, 2008), by Robert F. Cochran, Jr., the Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law and director of the Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics
  • The Leadership Advantage: How the Best Companies Are Developing Their Talent to Pave the Way for Future Success (AMACOM, 2007), by Robert M. Fulmer, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Strategy at the Graziadio School

Learn about more faculty authors at

Graziadio School Students Win National Ethical Leadership Case Competition

Graziadio School MBA students Alina Topala, Nicholas Merriam, Elizabeth Passaretti, and Zachary Pond earned First Place honors in Baylor University’s National Case Competition in Ethical Leadership. Over a three-day period, the teams studied an ethical business dilemma and were given the opportunity to present their solutions before a panel of judges. “The Pepperdine team did an excellent job of identifying the issues both business and ethical and then went on to recommend a restructuring of the organization that would address those issues, being certain that they were 'doing the right things’ ethically whilst making certain that they 'did things right’ (financially) for all stakeholders,” said Samuel Seaman, Graziadio School professor and the MBA students’ faculty advisor.

Pepperdine President Andrew BentonvNamed ACE Board Chair

President Andrew K. Benton assumed the role of chair of the American Council on Education (ACE), the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions. “It is an honor to serve as chair of the American Council on Education board of directors,” he commented. “Maintaining an informed and educated citizenry is one of the foundational characteristics of a free and democratic society. Now in its 90th year, the council has made significant contributions to higher education positively impacting students for nearly a century.” ACE represents more than 1,600 college and university presidents and more than 200 related associations nationwide.

GSEP Urban Initiative event with the LA skyline as a backdrop.

GSEP Urban Initiative event withthe LA skyline as a backdrop.

GSEP Launches Urban Initiative with Inaugural Event

The Graduate School of Education and Psychology has a long tradition of engagement with its urban neighbors. For more than 50 years, the school has prepared teachers, administrators, and mental health workers for service in the Greater Los Angeles area. This fall, GSEP officially launched the Urban Initiative with a ceremony held at the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles. Program director RHONDA BRINKLEY-KENNEDY addressed attendees about the goals of the new Initiative to strengthen ties with the local community and to deepen the link between GSEP professional preparation programs and the education and mental health needs of those in urban communities.

Pepperdine School of Law Joins Order of the Coif

The School of Law continued its ascent up the national rankings ladder and was unanimously approved to join the Order of Coif. The Order of the Coif is conferred upon schools that have demonstrated an environment of outstanding scholarship and academic excellence, and Pepperdine School of Law is the first to gain admittance to the society in four years. “I believe that unity of purpose is at the heart of Pepperdine’s dynamic engagement in scholarship and the academic community,” said Rick Cupp, associate dean for research and the John W. Wade Professor of Law. “Led and inspired by President Andrew K. Benton, Dean Starr, and their predecessors, Pepperdine’s faculty has a remarkable level of consensus about the importance of contributing to the marketplace of ideas.”

Also in the news:

  • Rick Marrs assumed his role as new dean of Seaver College.
  • School of Public Policy introduced the Jack F. Kemp Institute for Political Economy.
  • Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution earned top national ranking for the fourth consecutive year.
  • The Graziadio School introduced new master’s programs in applied finance, global business, and management and leadership.
  • GSEP faculty secured grants for research and student programs totaling more than $1.6 million.

Faith and Service

David Lemley

David Lemley

David Lemley Offers Spiritual Care as Pepperdine Chaplain

David Lemley has been appointed Pepperdine University chaplain after serving in a part-time capacity as associate chaplain last year. As an alumnus and grandson to the third president of the University, Lemley says he’s grateful for the opportunity to fill the spiritual needs of Pepperdine University, where he too cultivated his own faith and character. “The chaplain serves the spirit of an institution, providing care and keeping an open door to the community,” Lemley explained. “I hope to provide students, staff, faculty, and others who serve Pepperdine access to spiritual resources and a deeper sense of God’s presence and work among us.”

Also in the news:

  • Rubel Shelly presented “Why Atheists Are So Angry” as the 28th annual William M. Green Distinguished Christian Scholar Lecture.
  • Annual Frank Pack Distinguished Christian Scholar Lecture Program featured acclaimed author Lauren Winner.
  • Pepperdine students engaged in service on the 19th annual Step Forward Day, multiple Project Serve trips, and throughout National Hunger Awareness Week.

Arts and Athletics

Charles Arnoldi (l) and Michael Zakian

Charles Arnoldi (l) and Michael Zakian

Weisman Museum Celebrates 15th Anniversary

The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art celebrated its 15th anniversary with an exhibit called “Made in California: Contemporary California Art from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation.” Other exhibits throughout the year included “Charles Arnoldi: Wood,” “Reflections from the Artist’s Eye,” and “Portfolio of Creative Work” by the Pepperdine Public Affairs team. “Each new exhibit and piece adds something different to the museum and its history,” said museum director Michael Zakian. “At Pepperdine we want to continue showing ever better and ever more important exhibitions; we want to keep raising the bar.”

Performers Take the Stage in Smothers Theatre

Smothers Theatre came to life with professional and student performances throughout the year. Highlights included the fall musical Brigadoon, the Flora L. Thornton Opera Program’s rendition of The Bartered Bride, and the theatre department’s production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Other notable performances included pioneering jazz pianist Dave Brubeck and his acclaimed quartet, Richard Alston Dance Company, singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson, and a special Christmas program by the Kingston Trio.

Waves Athletes Earn High Honors in Another Strong Season

Pepperdine athletes upheld a remarkable tradition of winning two-thirds of the contests in which they competed. Six Pepperdine teams finished the year ranked in the Top 25 nationally, led by men’s volleyball which concluded its season ranked No. 2. Nine teams advanced to NCAA championship post-season play and 10 student-athletes earned All-American honors. “I’m exceedingly proud of the dedication that our student-athletes and coaches continue to exhibit everyday,” said John Watson, the University’s director of athletics. “Their commitment in the classroom and on the field is phenomenal. I believe they present themselves as positive role models to be envious of.”

Terry Schroeder

Terry Schroeder

Waves Alumni Win Olympic Medals in Beijing

Pepperdine alumni completed one of the school’s best-ever Olympic showings this year with four athletes bringing home medals in three different events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Sean Rooney ('05), a former National Player of the Year with the Waves, earned the biggest prize: a Gold Medal with the USA men’s volleyball team. Merrill Moses ('99) and Jesse Smith ('05) brought home Silver Medals with the USA men’s water polo team, led by legendary Pepperdine coach Terry Schroeder. Simon Aspelin ('98) of Sweden claimed a Silver Medal in the men’s tennis doubles competition.

Tom Asbury Returns to Pepperdine as Men’s Basketball Head Coach

Former Pepperdine men’s basketball head coach Tom Asbury has returned to Malibu to take over as the Waves’ head coach. Considered by many as the architect of one of the best periods in Pepperdine men’s basketball history, Asbury was previously at Pepperdine for 15 seasons. “There are very few people who have been as much a part of Pepperdine’s success in basketball over the years as Tom Asbury,” John Watson commented. “For 15 years he was a major reason why Pepperdine was at the top of the class in the West Coast Conference, and we’re looking forward to his return to the bench.”