Faculty and Fellows
Edward J. Larson, Director
Ed Larson holds the Hugh and Hazel Darling Chair in Law and is University Professor of History at Pepperdine University. Originally from Ohio with a Ph.D. in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and law degree from Harvard, Larson has lectured on all seven continents and taught at Stanford Law School, University of Melbourne, Leiden University, and the University of Georgia, where he chaired the History Department. Prior to becoming a professor, Larson practiced law in Seattle and served as counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in History and numerous other awards for writing and teaching, Larson is the author of nine books and over one hundred published articles. His books, which have been translated into over twenty languages, include An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science; A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign; Evolution's Workshop: God and Science in the Galapagos Islands; and the Pulitzer Prize winning Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. Larson's latest book, The Return of George Washington, was on the New York Times bestseller list in 2015. His articles have appeared in such varied publications as Nature, Atlantic Monthly, Science, Scientific American, Time, Wall Street Journal, American History, The Guardian, and dozens of academic journals.
A popular lecturer, Larson has taught short courses at universities in China, Europe, and South America; been a featured speaker at book festivals and the Chautauqua Institute; and given addresses at over 80 American universities. He was a resident scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Study Center; held the Fulbright Program's John Adams Chair in American Studies; participated in the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Writers and Artists Program; and served at an inaugural Fellow at the Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. A panelist on the National Institutes of Health's Study Section for Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues of the Human Genome Project, Larson often comments on issues of bioethics and science policy. He is interviewed frequently for broadcast, print, cable, and internet media, including The Daily Show, The Today Show, and multiple appearances on PBS, BBC, the History Channel, C-SPAN, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR. Larson lives in Malibu with his wife and two children. He enjoys hiking with friends, traveling with his family, and working in his garden overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Michael Helfand, Associate Director
Professor Helfand is currently an associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, where he has taught Contracts, Arbitration Law, and seminars in Law and Religion as well as Multiculturalism and the Law. Professor Helfand serves as the associate director of the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies at Pepperdine University as well a member of the faculty of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. In addition, he serves as both an arbitrator and consultant for the Beth Din of America.Professor Michael (Avi) Helfand is an expert on religious law and religious liberty. A frequent author and lecturer, his work considers how U.S. law treats religious law, custom and practice, focusing on the intersection of private law and religion in contexts such as religious arbitration, religious contracts and religious torts. His academic articles have appeared in numerous law journals, including the Yale Law Journal, New York University Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Boston Law Review and University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law Review. In addition, Professor Helfand often provides commentary on clashes between law and religion, writing for various public audience publications, including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the National Law Journal and the Forward as well as recently testifying before the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
Prior to assuming his position at Pepperdine, he was an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell, where his practice focused on complex commercial litigation. Before entering private practice, Professor Helfand clerked for the Honorable Julia Smith Gibbons of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.