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President's Report 2019: The Mountain

mountains graphic

Very few things in life promise lasting value or carry a spirit and sentiment that will endure long after our time on this earth. In the age of innovation, the notion of eternity often pales in the potency of novelty and ephemera. The temporary nature of our lives on earth is only satisfied by the promise of the eternal purpose we seek and pursue relentlessly in all we do.


The most distinct reminders of God's promise are often encountered in the natural world, where time seems endless and the wonders of his creation mystifying. The mountain—a symbol of God's greatness, permanence, and sacred power—stands unchanged, immovable by the forces of nature that often threaten its bedrock. Extending almost endlessly toward the sky, the majestic landforms evoke stillness, transcendence, and even the nearness of Heaven.

But in nature, mountains are created in chaos, whether by the violent jolt of continental collision; the mercurial eruption of heat, rock, and ash from the core of the earth; or through the transformative forces of wind, water, and ice that erode and shape raw land into elegantly sculpted monuments. Once formed, however, mountains, with their immense magnitude and powerful presence, are exemplars of resilience and equanimity in the face of adversity.

As an institution rooted in and devoted to the mental, physical, and spiritual transformation of every member of its family, it is our charge to create lasting value in the lives of our community beyond the challenges of their earthly pursuits. As we witness the degradation of moral leadership and attempt to alter the trajectory of ethical erosion that is terrorizing our nation and our world, our commitment to the development of leaders of character and conviction in the midst of unpredictable circumstances has and will remain unchanged.

The mountain represents both the challenge and the purpose and is our fixed point—a symbol of strength and a guiding force for the future leaders of the world who are embarking on a journey in pursuit of excellence in scholarship, faith, and community.


Rick J. Caruso speaking

Rick J. Caruso (JD '83) and his wife, Tina, made a $50 million commitment to the School of Law, which is now named the Rick J. Caruso School of Law in recognition of the historic gift. The contribution will expand educational access to underserved student populations—a hallmark of the Caruso family's philanthropic efforts throughout Southern California—as well as fuel several initiatives to strengthen the school's academic programming. Caruso will also partner with the Caruso School of Law to raise an additional $50 million in endowment funds over the next decade to continue and expand these initiatives.

"The lack of affordable education in our nation and the student debt crisis are not only inhibiting underprivileged students from gaining equal opportunity to education, but also discouraging potential students from exploring careers in public service—roles that have a critical impact on society," said Caruso. "My sincere hope is that this gift will be one of the first steps toward reducing the barrier to entry for these students and will inspire the next generation of public servants."

fire over Pepperdine campus

Student researchers found critical changes in Pepperdine's local landscape after the Woolsey Fire. Immediately following the Woolsey Fire in November 2018, Seaver College faculty and students began research to better understand plant regrowth in the landscape. Student researchers in the Summer Undergraduate Research in Biology program found critical shifts in the plant life in the Santa Monica Mountains and on Pepperdine's campus, including localized extinction of one species and weakened plant immune systems of another.

While the landscape is typically resilient, the student researchers shared concerns that many native species may be unable to survive due to increased stress from chronic drought, infection, and increased fire frequency. On June 24 participants shared their research and methods with climate researchers and activists from the University of California, Los Angeles.

RISE logo

The Pepperdine Resilience-Informed Skills Education (RISE) Program launched in fall 2019 in response to a growing desire to prepare students to develop their resilience skills, care for themselves and their peers in times of need, and reinforce their ability to bounce back from life's challenges no matter how great or small.


Pepperdine places in the top 50 universities in the nation for the fourth consecutive year in the U.S. News & World Report 2020 Best Colleges rankings.

SPP building

The School of Public Policy announced the endowment of the Braun Family Dean's Chair through the generous support of the Carl F. Braun Residuary Trust. Dean Pete Peterson (MPP '07) is the inaugural occupant of the endowed chair. "I'm honored to be the first to serve in the Braun Family Dean's Chair," Peterson said. "This endowment marks another commitment by the family toward preparing public leaders who can work across differences to address our toughest policy challenges, and I couldn't be more grateful."

The First 100 Days Campaign resulted in remarkable success, uniting the global University community for a common purpose—to lift Pepperdine to even greater heights of achievement and excellence in the months and years to come.

More than
$80 million
new gifts and pledges
library book stacks

Pepperdine Libraries received a $700,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2016 to renovate the spaces used to store rare books, documents that capture Malibu and University history, film and television materials, and archives of the Restoration Movement.

Prioritizing sustainable practices into the renovations, Payson Library now features a temperature- and humidity-controlled preservation environment that has already more than doubled the usable life of the stored collections; high-grade air filters in the HVAC system that almost entirely remove pollen, smoke, mold spores, and dust; and newly installed light bulbs, most of which do not emit UV or IR wavelengths.