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The Chapel on the Hill

The front entrance of Stauffer Chapel with the water fountain - Pepperdine University

Our University Chaplain, Sara Barton invites the Pepperdine community and guests to experience Stauffer Chapel as a sacred space for worship, prayer, rest, and reflection. The chapel is an intentional space that is maintained for communal and individual spiritual formation. For those who want to celebrate in praise and worship, those who need a quiet place to lament loss or disappointment, those who are seeking God's guidance for anxious hearts and minds, and for those who simply need to stop and rest a moment, the chapel is your space. Guests, please stop by for a short visit when you are on the Malibu campus, and for our faculty, staff, and students, please visit often.


Longtime University friend, Beverly Stauffer, gave to Pepperdine University an exemplary gift by which it would become known as Stauffer Chapel. The little chapel on the hill, as it is sometimes called, was dedicated in 1973 soon after the Malibu campus opened in the fall of 1972.

The architect of the chapel was Ulysses Floyd Rible, FAIA, and the glass artistry for the giant windows is the work of Robert and Bette Donovan and called "the Tree of Life." The two enormous, colorful walls enclose the chapel on either end. At the time of their installation, the walls of stained glass were the largest west of the Mississippi. Including the six side windows, the chapel has 3,000 square feet of stained glass designed in 105 hues.

In his September 2000 inaugural address, then president Andrew K. Benton included these insights into the chapel's extraordinary glass work:

As I thought about what makes Pepperdine unique, I was reminded of an afternoon in 1995, when a man named Robert Donovan requested a meeting with me. I was intrigued by his story, how he and his wife had designed the stained glass for our Stauffer Chapel. He said he and Bette had designed and built stained glass art across the nation and abroad. And now, in the twilight years of their career together, especially with Bette's cancer, they wanted to make sure they left their signature alongside their work, before it was too late. They had left their mark at Pepperdine, but not their name.

Robert told of the 13-month project, how Bette stood on the roof of their studio and directed the huge task with their 28 workmen, overseeing every detail. All the pieces, with their myriad shapes and colors, fitted together as one remarkable mosaic. Each piece interesting and unique, to be sure, but when fit together into a whole, something new and wonderful and lasting.

In the same way, this University is a mosaic that is astonishingly beautiful when the pieces are joined together. But surely other universities can say something of the same. They also have wonderful constituents forming an intricate mosaic. Perhaps the question for us, then, is, "What do the many and varied pieces form when they are crafted together here?" I can tell you what I think. And it is very much like what the Donovans created more than a quarter century ago. The wall of glass in our chapel, seen as a whole, pictures a stylized tree of life with swirling shapes and colors, each a brilliant contribution to the whole. In the center of that revolving kaleidoscope is the Word of God. And that may come the closest to symbolizing the mosaic we form and what we place at the center of our life together.

Related Links

There are many reasons why Pepperdine University is a remarkable place other than its beautiful location overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Read about the Pepperdine Story to learn about our history and mission.

The Campus Map is an easy guide that will assist you in finding not only Stauffer Chapel but the various buildings and parking lots on Pepperdine University's main campus, home of Seaver College. There is also a detailed map of the Drescher Graduate Campus.

Faith can be expressed in Stauffer Chapel, a sacred space for quiet meditation and prayer as well as group worship.

The year 2004 marked the completion of the Stauffer Chapel Renaissance after major refurbishment and enhancement, and in 2019, the audio-visual equipment was updated.