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Pepperdine University
Light Salt Truth President's Report 2023



Jim Gash
From the President

"The truth we pursue at Pepperdine is anchored by the principles and promises revealed in the infallible word of God."


students reading
Light, Salt, and Truth

—"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill can not be hidden."


Institutional Highlights


Michael J. Abramowitz and Jon Clifton

The President’s Speaker Series once again brought distinguished thought leaders to Malibu. Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, spoke with President Gash and Taube Professor of International Relations and Politics Kiron Skinner at the School of Public Policy about “The State of Freedom Around the World,” in March. In April, Jon Clifton, chief executive officer of Gallup, explored “The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It” and shared five elements central to well-being that government and industry leaders can focus on in improving constituents’ lives.

Pepperdine Students

Pepperdine Gives, the University’s annual day of giving, raised a record-breaking $1.7 million. Nearly 3,000 individuals comprising faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the University contributed during the 24-hour period on October 4, 2023, and showed support for the initiatives and programs they were most passionate about.

Rabbi Ari Berman

Yeshiva University president Rabbi Ari Berman discussed “Challenges and Opportunities of Faith-Based Higher Education Institutions” at the President’s Speaker Series event held in October 2023. In discussion with President Gash, Berman addressed today’s pressing topics in higher education, including the differences between secular and faith-based universities, the benefits of attending a faith-based school, and the recent global events impacting the Jewish community worldwide.


Thomas H. Knudsen

Thomas H. Knudsen (’91), was named Pepperdine’s general counsel in March. Knudsen was general counsel for California Lutheran University from 2022 to 2023. He had served in the Pepperdine general counsel’s office as associate general counsel and deputy general counsel from 2007 to 2022, engaging in a broad range of legal matters for the University.


The official groundbreaking of the Mountain at Mullin Park

The official groundbreaking of the Mountain at Mullin Park took place on Founder’s Day in September. The Mountain will house a state-of-the-art arena and serve as an event, recreation, wellness, and social center for students. Following remarks by University leadership, President Gash was joined by Dee Anna Smith (’86), chair of the Board of Regents; Phil Phillips (’88, JD ’92), executive vice president and chief operating officer; Ben Veenendaal (’02), associate vice president for planning, operations, and construction; Sara Young Jackson (’74), chancellor; Tim Perrin, senior vice president for strategic implementation; and Greg Ramirez (’03), chief financial officer, in the ceremonial first dig.

The Sudreau Global Justice Institute assisted several new partner countries in strengthening the Rule of Law and engaged with more than 50 students in its one-of-a-kind prison projects and internship opportunities. In Uganda, Pepperdine students and the institute’s teams of attorneys helped achieve justice for more than 2,000 clients. In Rwanda, the institute worked in partnership with the judiciary to complete the first year of plea bargaining for several thousand clients who were given access to justice. In West Africa, the institute helped launch Ghana’s very first public defender’s office and worked with the attorney general of Lagos, Nigeria, to deliver a comprehensive audit of the Ministry of Justice for strategic recommendations for increased access to justice in Lagos.

In Uganda, Pepperdine students and the institute’s teams of attorneys helped achieve justice
Chris Pratt gave the keynote address at the university

Actor Chris Pratt gave the keynote address at the University’s 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony on Monday, September 11, 2023, to a record-setting audience of more than 1,000 Pepperdine students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The 2,977 flags that compose the University’s annual Waves of Flags display served as the ceremony’s backdrop. Following the keynote address, Pratt joined Seaver College student Colton Cherry to plant the final flag in honor of Cherry’s father, Stephen, who died in the attacks.



Local nonprofits and organizations participated in the
Pepperdine’s day of service tradition.


Pepperdine opened the doors of the Château d’Hauteville

On Thursday, July 6, 2023, Pepperdine opened the doors of the Château d’Hauteville
a 90-acre, 18th-century estate in Blonay - Saint-Légier overlooking Lake Geneva in Switzerland. In a historic moment that was the culmination of more than eight years of exploration, negotiation, and renovation, President Gash cut the ceremonial orange ribbon, officially opening the campus. The château encompasses a 40,400-square-foot, three-story residential château that dates to the 1760s; an orangerie that has been converted into a 150-seat dining hall; a gatehouse; a gardener’s house; a barn; and a greenhouse, as well as French- style formal gardens, tree-lined pathways, an outdoor pavilion, a vegetable and herb garden, woods, vineyards, and a 67-acre working farm.

The first class of students to call the château home arrived in August. In addition to its function as an enriching learning environment, the University’s newest international campus serves as a world-class venue for retreats, conferences, and lectures on topics of global and international significance. In September, the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution held the château’s inaugural international event, followed by a conference on European cybersecurity hosted by the School of Public Policy.

Students Gathering


Cybersecurity and Defense Cooperation Conference

The School of Public Policy hosted the Cybersecurity and Defense Cooperation Conference at the Château d’Hauteville in September 2023. The event, led by Kiron Skinner, Taube Professor of International Relations and Politics at the School of Public Policy, assembled an intimate cohort of defense policy experts, international security organization executives, and foreign affairs leaders to discuss European cybersecurity and defense cooperation with a particular focus on the strategic integration and future relations of NATO. Keynote speakers included Liz Truss, former British prime minister, and Kersti Kaljulaid, former president of the Republic of Estonia.

Jim Gash and Eric Leshinsky

The PeppVet Center, Pepperdine’s first on- campus resource center dedicated to veterans and military-connected undergraduate and graduate students, opened in November 2023. Led by Eric Leshinsky, director of student veteran affairs, the PeppVet Center, located on the first floor of the Thornton Administrative Center, will guide students through their transition to civilian life and serve as a space for students’ academic, career, and personal development. In addition, the center will provide military-connected students with a physical place for support, mentorship, and guidance and increase institutional awareness related to issues impacting these students.

Lee Kats and Students

In June Pepperdine began investigating the establishment of a school of health sciences, driven in part by the growing demand for healthcare professionals. Upon the announcement, former vice provost Lee Kats assumed the role of interim dean of Seaver College and former Seaver College dean Michael Feltner took the lead on the academic exploration of the venture in his new role of dean of academic initiatives.



Kendra KillpatrickPepperdine was awarded the EAB 2022 Technology Pioneer award for innovative leadership in student success in the fall. Working with individuals from OneStop, the Student Success Center, Athletics, Integrated Marketing Communications, Information Technology, and the Seaver Dean’s Office, senior associate dean Kendra Killpatrick led the college in its implementation of Navigate, a student success platform. The platform not only allows students to make appointments, but it also facilitates their creation of a four-year academic plan.

The Heidelberg international program celebrated its 60th anniversary with the Heidelberg Grand Reunion

The Heidelberg international program celebrated its 60th anniversary with the Heidelberg Grand Reunion that drew more than 600 Heidelberg alumni, faculty, and staff, who reconnected and reminisced at the Brock House. The event was held during the annual Waves Weekend, which welcomed a record number of alumni—more than 500—to the Malibu campus.

Financial Report

$1.2 billion
The University's FY23

$1.7 billion
Value of FY23
maintained by the University

10-year total endowment

Tim Spivey

Tim Spivey (’97, MS ’00, MDiv ’00) was named Pepperdine’s vice president for spiritual life in December. Spivey leads the University’s Hub for Spiritual Life in its Christian ministries and related programs, including community engagement and service. He also provides pastoral care and ministry to the student body. Spivey had previously served as a senior minister at churches in California and Texas.

Sadie Robertson Huff and Hillsong Young & Free member Aodhan King

The Well worship service hosted best-selling author and speaker Sadie Robertson Huff and Hillsong Young & Free member Aodhan King, who led worship alongside the Well band and set attendance records at the Amphitheatre on the Malibu campus.

 Pepperdine University and Prison Fellowship International

The Center for Faith and the Common Good partnered with multinational organizations for a first-of-its-kind, multiyear study in Colombia’s prison system. Among its chief goals, the study will measure the efficacy of international prison programs in offender rehabilitation. Led by Pepperdine University and Prison Fellowship International, the study findings will be applied to identify best practices that drive meaningful change in the lives of prisoners and their families around the world.

The Pepperdine Bible Lectures celebrated its 80th anniversary

Harbor: The Pepperdine Bible Lectures celebrated its 80th anniversary in May with the theme of “God Loves Forever.” The multiday conference featured more than 100 speakers, including a number of Pepperdine faculty and staff members.

Pepperdine finished first in the Division I-AAA


for student-athletes,
three points
higher than the
national rate

Pepperdine finished first in the Division I-AAA Athletic Directors Association All-Sports standings for the second consecutive year. This was the Waves’ fifth time winning the All-Sports Trophy, which recognizes success throughout the academic year. Seven teams—men’s water polo, men’s golf, women’s golf, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, men’s volleyball, and beach volleyball—finished with top-25 national rankings, and eight teams competed at NCAA Championships or NCAA Regional events.


Student-athletes earned



The Pepperdine Law Review at the Caruso School of Law commemorated its 50th anniversary with a symposium titled "All Rise: The Future of the Federal Judiciary" in March. The symposium featured US district court and circuit courts judges, along with esteemed scholars from across the country, to discuss the issues facing the federal judiciary and ideas for reform.

Jessica Hooten Wilson

Jessica Hooten Wilson (’04) was named the Fletcher Jones Chair of Great Books at Seaver College. Known as a leading scholar and advocate for Great Books, the humanities and liberal arts, and Christian higher education throughout her distinguished career in higher education, Wilson will further Pepperdine’s tradition of producing students with astute critical thinking skills and shepherd Seaver students toward success both at Pepperdine and in post-graduate careers and study.

faculty and students

The Caruso School of Law partnered with Tuskegee University for an accelerated degree program. The program allows students at Tuskegee, one of the country’s 104 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to apply to the law school during their junior year at the college, ultimately earning an undergraduate degree and juris doctor in six years.

ranked number 45 by U.S. News & World Report in 2023–2024 rankings, its best ranking in history, rising seven points from the previous year.

Farzin Madjidi

Farzin Madjidi (MBA ’88, EdD ’91) was appointed dean of the Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP), beginning his tenure on August 1, 2023. Madjidi has a long history of service to Pepperdine, having taught at the Graziadio Business School before joining the GSEP faculty in 1997. He served as the associate dean of the school’s Education Division for six years prior to becoming the interim dean for the 2022 fiscal year. Madjidi is known for his excellence as an instructor and for his commitment to students’ pursuit of community service and success as leaders.

Conference at 5th annual fundable companies

The Graziadio Business School hosted the fifth annual Most Fundable Companies showcase event in October 2022 presented by the Singleton Foundation for Financial Literacy & Entrepreneurship featuring a keynote address by Graziadio alumna Kim Folsom (MBA ’02), founder and CEO of Founders First Capital Partners, Inc. The event unveiled the 16 winners of the startup competition, which were selected from more than 4,000 startups from all 50 states using a comprehensive submission and review process powered by the Venture Alliance. The showcase event introduced the audience to a remarkable set of companies and kicked off a series of opportunities to interact with the winners, sponsors, council members, and Pepperdine Graziadio staff.

Victor Davis Hanson returned to Pepperdine to serve as the inaugural Terry Giles and Kalli O’Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy. Hanson, the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and former William E. Simon Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, will teach a course each fall in perpetuity through the endowment related to his scholarly expertise in applied history, military history, and American political culture.

Victor Davis Hanson
Ronald Regan Library

The School of Public Policy celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The evening featured a keynote conversation between Robert C. O’Brien, former national security advisor and Distinguished Senior Fellow, and Kiron Skinner, Taube Professor of International Relations and Politics.

Notable Research Grants

for Covenantal Pluralism Project

for Hawaiian coral reef research

for Cybersecurity:
Global Engagements and

for study of the lone star tick