Pepperdine People Magazine
Pepperdine People Magazine Fall 2005
Across the Board: Profiling Our Women Regents
By Lyn Klodt
Women Regents Virginia Braun, Linda Gage,
Susan Rice and Sheila Bost
They are passionate about the importance of education in a young person's life, united in support of Pepperdine University's mission statement, allies in seeing Mr. Pepperdine's dual commitment to academic excellence and Christian values continue. "They" are the women members on the Board of Regents. Making up 12 of its 53 members, each woman regent brings her own exclusive contributions to help develop the University's policies.
Giving back to her community is common practice for fund- raising consultant Susan F. Rice. Earning her doctorate from the Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) of Pepperdine University left an enduring impression—the commitment and hard work of her professors. "Pepperdine has remained focused on its role as a teaching university, and it's a leader in addressing what students want: practical but research- based courses," says the GSEP Distinguished Alumnus of the Year ('97).
Dr. Rice loves both her work on the board's academic affairs committee and Regent meetings, where, she says,"it's a joy to grapple with new ideas!" But it's the people who rate number one with her, both the regents and the administra- tors who are "excellent in their vision, in articulat- ing the integrity of the programs, the staff, and the students."
Sheila Bost is in the people business as a marriage and family therapist. "I fi nd people absolutely fascinating," and that includes those on the board, she says. "You're working with solid business people, very wise people, philanthropists who are very caring and compassionate." Joining the board three years ago, Bost found it a very organized, welcoming leadership group within the University community, which she already knew fi rsthand. She has the unique experience of having been a staff and faculty member over the years, plus mom of three University graduates. "I have great respect for our faculty members and how they integrate faith in the classroom. So many spend time with the students, and I think that this co-curricular aspect is very important," Bost says.
Speaking from personal experience, Virginia "Ginie" Braun supports Bost's point. Her granddaughter received help for her dyslexia while a University undergraduate.
Braun says she never fi gured out why she was asked to join the board in 1995. But just try to keep her away from a meeting. "I'm always learning so much about Pepperdine; it's just fascinating."
A friend of William S. Banowsky even before he became the University's fourth president, Braun is known for her volunteer service to many organizations, including the Republican Party. She is on the board's advance- ment committee "and I love it! I even asked to be put back on it," Braun added. "Advancement covers all aspects of the University, so I learn a lot about the entire school from this committee."
For Rosemary Raitt, it's the building and grounds committee that she enjoys, "because you're right on top of what's needed!" Her practical nature has Raitt enjoying such critical details as building access. She has been "attached" to Pepperdine since she was a guest at the Malibu campus groundbreaking 35 years ago.
She especially values the time faculty members spend working with students. Many faculty members invite student groups to visit their campus home. Raitt does the same, inviting small groups of students to her home to visit over dessert. She lives every day with an attitude of interest and curiosity. "If you want to know something then learn it, pursue it, do it, know it, and explore it thoroughly."
That's exactly what Linda M. Gage does in prepar- ing for board meetings. "It's probably my biggest challenge, but I think it's imperative that I'm knowledgeable about the current issues under discussion, because the issues are so important."
Though Gage had known of the Christian University for many years, it became a personal connection when her family met Duke Runnels, son of Chancellor Charles B. "Charlie" Runnels when Duke became their neighbor in Phoenix in 1986. Ten years later, Gage joined the Board of Regents. One of her favorite things about serving is the joy in seeing Pepperdine University grow in numbers, depth, and national recognition as it remains true to its heritage and mission. "I love being a part of all this," Gage added.
Being a part of Pepperdine and the way it's run is what keeps Marilyn Simpson excited about participating on the board for the past six years. "I give my time to Pepperdine because I'm interested in young people and I value a Christian education," says the native Californian.
Being on the board is like running a big company, Simpson adds. She names a few ways that meetings remain informative, interesting, and fresh: students attend as part of agenda-related business, specific athletic programs are featured, and presentations are viewed illustrating new benchmarks.
Simpson says she loves every minute of her board involvement including being on its building and grounds committee, which was a favorite assignment for fellow board member Carol Richards. With experience in construction project management, Richards found this committee assignment especially fulfilling as plans for both the Drescher Graduate Campus and the Center for Communication and Business took physical shape.
Richards, one of the founding organizers of the Seaver College Parents Association and the Seaver Board of Visitors, says the most enjoyable and fl attering assignment was to be asked, as a new board member, to serve on the 1999 presidential search committee. Recalls Richards, "It's been my biggest board challenge, the most fun, and one of the best things I've ever done. . .It was very rewarding because we made the right decision in selecting Andy Benton."
For more compliments about Pepperdine's current and sixth president, see Helen M. Young. In her humble, gracious way, Young is also glad to share any details of the University's complete history because she was there: Class of '39; wife of its third president and first University chancellor; founder, Associ- ated Women for Pepperdine (AWP); regent (1970-1974), regent emeritus (1974-1980), and life regent (since 1980), a non-voting position on the board.
Young was the second woman ever appointed to the board. She was preceded by Helen Pepperdine, the founder's wife, who was appointed an associate member in 1939 and, a year later, elected to the Board of Trustees, which later evolved into the Board of Regents.
Seeing that Mr. Pepperdine's original goals continue, and encouraging the woman regents, are Young's unique contributions, she says. She stays in contact with the Adamson-Rindge family, donors of the original parcel of Malibu campus land, as well as other friends of Pepperdine "who have made a real sacrifice to make 'The Miracle of Malibu' happen," said Young. "Pepperdine University is still a miracle."
One of those major miracle-makers is Flora L. Thornton, regent from 1981 to 1999, and joining Young as a life regent in 1999. Thornton was instrumental in building the Charles B. Thornton Administrative Center, named for her late husband, and the Howard A. White Student Center, named for Pepperdine's fifth president.
Thornton took great pride and enjoyment serving on the board's executive committee for 10 years because "it was an opportunity to learn more and be challenged by it. It especially added to my development in my career of philanthropy." Thornton adds that the entire board process is challenging for her because she wants to ask the right questions to be of maximum help. Thornton is especially keen on supporting preventive health education, and the arts illustrated by her establishment of Pepperdine's Flora Laney Thornton Professor of Nutrition, and the Flora L. Thornton Opera Program.
And when it comes to the value of education, she doesn't hesitate to proclaim, "Education is the great hope for our nation's youth."
Education has been Rosa Mercado Spivey's particular focus as a school district physician. She sees many children with special needs and complex medical problems. So when Dr. Spivey's first board meeting approached, she thought she'd be able to "just sit, listen, be agreeable, and enjoy any presentations."
"But, my goodness, I immediately realized that this was a working board!" she says. "Its members work hard, are very committed, and make sure they've done their duty to the last letter. It's serious work by sharp people."
Dr. Spivey says that being on the board lets her help shape Pepperdine's success. She has a lot of opportunity as a member of its executive committee and cochair of its academic affairs committee.
One board member who left an enduring legacy for her dedication to young people is Evelyn Clark, a regent in 1974 and a life regent as of 1989. Not physically able to attend the quarterly meetings for many years before her recent death, Evelyn will always be honored for past service to Pepperdine University.
A charter member of AWP and its president for two, two-year terms, Clark was instrumental in establishing and building many of its fundraising activities while traveling thousands of miles to start new AWP districts and encourage tenuous ones. But her most significant gift was establishing an endowment fund for Church of Christ young people who need financial assistance to attend Pepperdine. With an initial $1,000 in 1977, its fair-market value now exceeds $2.3 million.
A single article or even a book on each woman could be written, their lives are that full of intriguing twists and anecdotes, insightful truths and experiences. One final example illustrates this point— Janice R. Brown, recently appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. During her nine years as a California Supreme Court associate justice, she began serving as a Pepperdine board member "because it was irresistible. I was so impressed with the clarity of its mission statement and its fidelity to it, which goes against the tide."
Meeting with the University's students during board meetings not only energizes Judge Brown but gives her hope for the future. "These young scholars are so willing to give back to the community, and exercise their spiritual values," she adds. They reflect the central role that education can play, as explained by Judge Brown: "If you begin with faith and have your priorities straight, the key to living a successful, productive life has to be the quality of your education. And it's not just about being smart, but a complex mix of things like integrity and virtues. Education is the key to developing that, and it's the key to the survival of the democratic republic."