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The Power of Story: Television Producer Martha Williamson Shines at Pepperdine Associates Dinner

By Nate Ethell ('08, MBA '13)

Ken LaZebnick and Martha WilliamsonKen LaZebnick and Martha Williamson

Lorraine ('60) and Jim ('57) Brinton with Amy Jo ('00) and Charles RunnelsFrom left, Lorraine ('60) and Jim ('57) Brinton with
Amy Jo ('00) and Charles Runnels

Kyle Hughes ('11), Martha Williamson, and Alicia HarrisFrom left, Kyle Hughes ('11), Martha Williamson,
and Alicia Harris

University Board chair Pat Boone and President BentonUniversity Board chair Pat Boone and President Benton

Pepperdine hosted its 38th annual Pepperdine Associates dinner on May 10, 2014, exploring the theme "The Power of Story." The event, held at the dynamic JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE, was chaired by benefactors Celeste and John Plueger, whose own Pepperdine narrative began five years ago when son Ryan ('14) was recruited to play for the Pepperdine men's volleyball team.

Bringing the power of story to life was this year's speaker Martha Williamson, executive producer of television series Touched By An Angel and Signed, Sealed, Delivered. Introduced by Ken LaZebnik, University Libraries campaign committee member and former screenwriter for Touched By An Angel, he praised Martha's natural instinct for storytelling and the artistic standard she set in Hollywood.

"Martha had an uncanny ability to find the unexpected twist in a story, which also somehow seems inevitable," Ken said, reflecting on their time together on the groundbreaking CBS series. "We were lucky enough to have … her saving grace of humor and an overarching philosophy that we were doing something very unusual for television: telling life-affirming stories that had a moral base."

Delving into stories that touched upon everything from her childhood fears in Denver to life in Los Angeles, Martha's experiences highlighted moments of defeat, achievement, and surmounting unlikely odds. "I think the stories that we tell—the things that we pull out of our own hearts and share with other people—the best ones are stories of overcoming obstacles," Martha said.

President Andrew K. Benton concluded the evening by sharing stories of Pepperdine students and alumni who had overcome such obstacles. "Stories have the power to transport us; they provide a vision of new reality," he shared. "In the hands of a master storyteller, a great story changes our lives for the better."

As the University finishes the unprecedented Campaign for Pepperdine and continues to write its own story, he reminded the audience of alumni and friends that they play a key role in the institution's past, present, and future. "Pepperdine University is a better place today," he said. "The future of Pepperdine is brighter as a consequence of your walking with us with heart and soul every step of the way."