President Benton

From the President

Growing up in the Heartland, life happened around the table. From festive holidays to Sundays after church to an ordinary weeknight, I would break bread with family and friends who gathered together in fellowship to enjoy the company of one another.

Indeed, classic family traditions, historical religious rituals, and contemporary cultural norms all portray the notion of eating together as a method for fostering relationships, creating dialogue, and—perhaps most importantly—building community. As children, we eat dinner with parents and siblings, at school we share our beloved lunch period with classmates, and as professionals in the modern world we engage in friendly conversations around tables in the break room. We are taught that sharing food means sharing life.

As a boy I'm not sure that I fully recognized the value of these moments. But I knew even then that they weren't just functional interactions designed to consume sustenance. No, these seemingly ordinary gatherings were actually something special, part of communal ritual dating back thousands of years. They uniquely connected all who were a part of them, uniting them in the solidarity of a shared experience. For me, the table was the backdrop of the domestic stage, a place where senses were awakened and countless memories were made.

At Pepperdine, this table—and the experiences created around it—comes in many forms, but its role in bringing people together remains the same. In the caf, dozens of round tables are a cornerstone of campus life. In the classroom, rows of desks are a launch pad for academic instruction and inquiry. And in our libraries, study tables encourage collaboration and deep discussion, often well into the night.

As we challenge our University community to discover intrepid new ways to learn, love, lead, and live, this year's President's Report explores the roots of Pepperdine's faith mission and what it means to welcome all to the open table. As you read on, you may even find that you are surprised by our mission's renewed role in today's culture and the power it has to bring people of all stripes together.


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