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Curtain Call: Pepperdine Dedicates Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts

By Nate Ethell ('08, MBA '13)

Lisa Smith WenglerEric Downs (’04) thanks Lisa for her generosity.

Lisa Smith WenglerGloria Holden, Glen Holden, and Lisa Smith Wengler

Lisa Smith WenglerPresident Andy Benton, Lisa Smith Wengler,
Billie Milam Weisman, and Michael Zakian

Lisa Smith Wengler

Call it the performance of a lifetime. Following a generous estate commitment last summer from University Board member and longtime friend Lisa Smith Wengler, Pepperdine University dedicated the Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts on November 7, 2013. The center, located in the heart of Pepperdine’s Malibu campus, includes Smothers Theatre, Raitt Recital Hall, and Lindhurst Theatre, as well as the Weisman Museum of Art, and serves more than 50,000 patrons hailing from more than 600 ZIP codes each year.

Lisa began her friendship with Pepperdine when she first made her home in Malibu in the 1970s, soon becoming acquainted with former Pepperdine president Norvel Young and Pepperdine matriarch Helen Young (’39). Born and raised in Germany, Lisa found success in California as a developer and builder in Malibu and began building homes in the formerly titled Alcoa development, located west of John Tyler Drive near Pepperdine’s Malibu campus. Navigating what she characterized as a “man’s world of lenders, investors, architects, and contractors,” Lisa proved to be a skilled negotiator and successful developer.

“The story of Lisa Smith Wengler is the story of a woman who was introduced to us, saw the value in our work, and chose to make a commitment that will forever transform this campus, this community, and this region,” shared Rebecca Carson, managing director of the Center for the Arts. “Lisa has made a philanthropic investment in the cultural life of Malibu and the creative spirit of Pepperdine. Her gift ensures that future generations will be inspired by high-quality performances and exhibitions.”

In time, Lisa’s endowment will allow the Center for the Arts to present more extensive residencies that strengthen student opportunities to work with guest artists and add resources to improve technical capabilities. “The Center for the Arts will also increase its marketing efforts to take it from what our patrons call a ‘best-kept secret’ to a nationally recognized hub for the arts and the gold standard for arts presentation,” Rebecca said.

“In addition to her other interests at Pepperdine, Lisa’s true passion has been in our theatres and the Weisman Museum,” said Sara Young Jackson (’74), vice chancellor. “Lisa has a deep appreciation for the beauty of the arts. Her generous gift will enable the center to be a beacon of creativity and culture in this community and the world.”