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Jim Wilburn Honored for 40 Years at Pepperdine

Jim Wilburn Honored for 40 Years

It was a love fest of Pepperdine proportion.

More than 420 jubilant fans gathered October 27 at the Beverly Hills Hotel to honor School of Public Policy Founding Dean James R. Wilburn. Well into the evening—following dinner, a video tribute, and many praise-filled toasts—the man of the hour ascended the stage to share what 40 years at the University have meant to him.

And then he asked that the house lights be raised and for public policy students and alumni to stand. "Look around you," he said to the crowd, gesturing to the dozens of young people who had come to honor their dean. "They are the real reason we are here tonight."

Jim began his Pepperdine odyssey in 1971 as a consultant and professor of economic history. Before long, he was embracing key roles as provost, vice president, and dean of the Graziadio School as the University recognized his ability, energy, and sense of destiny. Praise was abundant as four decades of leadership were recounted, including his deanship of the public policy school.

"Jim has invested more than half his life shaping Pepperdine's future and that of our students," said Pepperdine president Andy Benton, who announced that the largest assembly hall on the Drescher Graduate Campus will be dedicated this spring as the James R. Wilburn Auditorium. Many of the friends, faculty, staff, board members, and alumni in attendance had made gifts in honor of the occasion.

Benton expressed gratitude to members of the extended Kemp family—many of them present—and to University Regent Russ Ray and his wife Audrey for pooled gifts that endowed the Tom Kemp Memorial Scholarship Fund. He also thanked alumnus Frank Cornell (MBA '78, EdD '04) and his wife, Sherry, for endowing a new public policy scholarship as part of the Campaign for Pepperdine.

Guided by master of ceremonies Jon Kemp ('94), the event featured remarks by dinner chairs and Graziadio graduates Gus Tagliaferri (MBA '74) and Steve Olson (MBA '73), and Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner, chair of the School of Public Policy Board of Visitors.

The evening closed with special toasts from alumnus Tom Kemp, Jr. ('83), and alumna Tari Rokus ('76), and then many in the crowd surrounded Jim on the dance floor as the Blue Breeze Band serenaded the party well into the evening.