Motivated by Mission
By Andrew K. Benton
President, Pepperdine University
In their contribution to the landmark book, The Soul of a Christian University, Eileen Hulme and Paul Kaak declare that “faith-based institutions are called to be purveyors of transformational teaching, compassionate service, rigorous scholarship, and educationally intentional student programming.
“The argument,” they continue, “could be made that these are the aspirations of all colleges and universities.” Yet, Hulme and Kaak draw a critical distinction. They suggest that while the outcomes may appear to be the same, the motivation to achieve distinction as a faith-based institution grows out of a deep desire to bring glory to God.
At Pepperdine, we have dedicated ourselves to a mission that calls us to simultaneously pursue the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values. The healthy tension that exists between the twin goals of our mission can generate tension in the boardroom, the classroom, and indeed, in each of us, as we wrestle with the truth of our convictions and the challenges presented by science, history, and literature. We are highly motivated by this mission because we believe it is the best way our University can strengthen the lives of its students, serve its community, and in so doing, bring glory to God. But how does one measure up to such a high standard?
There may be several ways to evaluate our progress, but there is one form of measurement that clearly integrates our mission with our motivation. At Pepperdine we believe that knowledge calls, ultimately, for a life of service. When I learn of the good that an alumnus is doing in their community or around the world, as I do nearly every day, I know that the enterprise is working. Their good works are the fruit of the “wrestling match with truth” and through them we see evidence that the world is changing.
Our founder envisioned that the alumni of George Pepperdine College would become active in this world as agents of change. He saw the promise of a better future living through the young people of his college. He saw generations of alumni creating “ever widening waves of service spreading across the globe.”
Indeed, his vision is a greater reality today than he could have imagined.
During my 25 years at Pepperdine I have encountered thousands of students who’ve made remarkable contributions to the world. Some have gone on to found successful companies while others have gone on to make important discoveries. Whether as authors, journalists, lawyers, physicians, politicians, missionaries, or teachers, each alumnus has found a way to create value and return a portion to their community. They hoard neither their influence nor their wealth, but share it freely. (Freely they have received. Freely they have given.)
Pepperdine alumni are making such a dramatic difference in this world, we decided it was time that the University rally around them in a meaningful and practical way. This fall, I am pleased to announce that Pepperdine University has launched a global service initiative—an idea spawned by Pepperdine alumni—called Waves of Service.
To launch the program, we’ve committed staff and resources to connect more than 80,000 alumni with service opportunities throughout the world. We’re supporting students and their lifelong call to service by building a fund for loan forgiveness for those who choose service as a career. We’re launching unique service pilot programs in three major regions across the country, and planning special ways to recognize and celebrate what alumni do (see page 30 to learn how to get involved).
It’s just a start, but we see Waves of Service as a way to knit our community together, and especially our alumni, in a way that flows out of the very heart of our mission. And while we believe that this is one important measure of success and we are grateful for the accolades it brings, our motivation comes from our hope that all of this will bring glory to God.