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View from Pepperdine's Heroes Garden

Heroes Garden

Located at one of the highest points on the Malibu campus, the Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., Heroes Garden stands as an outdoor chapel, a place of honor, reflection, and, especially, remembrance. It is meant to inspire feelings of peace and calm in a turbulent world.

Heroes Garden was envisioned and designed to permanently remind citizens of the unprovoked attacks of September 11, 2001, when three hijacked jetliners were flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Graziadio Business School alumnus Thomas E. Burnett, Jr. (MBA '95), was among those aboard the fourth hijacked jetliner, United Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Burnett and other passengers attempted to regain control of the aircraft from the hijackers to prevent them from flying it into their intended target of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. This heroic act saved countless lives. Heroes Garden was designed to honor Burnett's sacrifice and the sacrifice of so many on that day. In all, nearly 3,000 souls were lost in a single day.

Heroes can give their lives all at one time, or they can give a little each day.

Deena Burnett Bailey

Widow of Flight 93 Hero and Pepperdine Alumnus Tom Burnett

The site of the garden was dedicated on September 11, 2002 and opened to the public on September 11, 2003. In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the Pepperdine community, Deena Burnett Bailey, and her family rededicated this outdoor sanctuary as the Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., Heroes Garden, honoring in perpetuity our Graziadio Business School alumnus and hero who put America first that fateful day.

Stone walls, grassy mounds, trees, and native plant life separate this quiet, reflective space from the busy world. A narrow channel of water, the Stream of Conflict, runs from the fountain down the length of the walkway ahead, crossing the path three times. Boulders along the way are inscribed with six quotations that invite reflection as visitors proceed down the garden walk.

Continuing along the path, guests will find the first of three "rooms" formed by walls and earth berms. Each room represents a different contemplative state. The stone path below acts as a guide featuring irregular golden accents that resolve themselves into a symmetrical pattern at the end of the space.

The Statue of Liberty watched silently as two of her Manhattan towers collapsed and many of her children were lost. But her lamp is still raised high, the light still streaming.

Andrew K. Benton

President, Pepperdine University
April 9, 2002

The final room, the Room of Hope, features a bench and plaque dedicated to the late Gary Strauss, beloved son of Al and Angie Strauss, whose gift made the garden possible. From here guests can look out toward the Plaza of Resolution and take in the ocean views beyond.

Stepping down into the Plaza of Resolution, visitors reach the final inscribed boulder and the edge of the infinity pool. The surface of the pool is calm on a clear day, reflecting an American flag. The sound of cascading water fills the plaza and the entire garden, creating a sense of peace. At the same time, the sound is consistent, echoing off the stone walk and carrying steadily on as a reminder of those we've lost.

The last stretch of the Garden features a sycamore grove to the right where guests can exit. The path below is engraved with the beloved words of Psalm 23.

The Thomas E. Burnett, Jr. Heroes Garden is a place of reflection. A place where Pepperdine hopes the broader community finds space to remember those who protected our freedom and honor their sacrifice with quiet contemplation. 



Special thanks to the Pepperdine Heroes Garden Committee

  • Claudia Arnold
  • Stephen Carroll
  • Clark Cowan
  • Jerry Derloshon
  • Bill Henegar
  • Rick Leach
  • Abigail Salaway
  • Jill Venturi