"Gareen, my favorite writer!"
I couldn’t help feeling like the most important person in the room when President Benton called on me to ask him about the ways he motivates the members of his staff. He was the guest speaker that day at the monthly Women in Leadership Institute luncheon in the Thornton Administrative Center where I met regularly with 18 other rising women leaders from across the University.
I could feel myself beaming and hoped it wasn’t obvious. Was I really Andy’s favorite writer? Andy, who can recall and recite stanzas of classic poetry at a moment’s notice? Well-read, Keats-loving, Frost-quoting Andy? My guess is no. But in that moment, I felt seen and recognized and loved by someone I greatly admired while in the company of my peers and mentors and those colleagues whose leadership I aspired to. I felt special.
When I replayed the scenario to a friend later that day, she acknowledged the simplicity of the compliment and remarked, “He probably says that to everyone.” Though I balked at the reality check, she could be right. Perhaps he does say that to everyone. But, recognizing that made me appreciate even more his commitment to elevating those around him.
My many fond memories of Andy now cast a long shadow as his time at Pepperdine’s helm comes to a close. When we greeted him at Brock House for our interview featured on page 14 of this issue, camera crew in tow, he implored us: “Please don’t make this all about me.” Sorry, Andy. This time it’s about you. It’s about your ability to relate to any member of the community, from the younger sibling of an incoming student to a board chair looking for a cause to support at the University. It’s about your grace during challenging discussions and enthusiasm for listening to all sides of the conversation. It’s about your availability and accessibility to any and all who need a moment of your time. And it’s about your commitment to higher education, not only at Pepperdine, but across the nation.
I’m incredibly proud to say Andy has inspired my leadership through his humble approach, his gentle encouragement, and, perhaps most meaningfully, his implicit confidence in my abilities. And I’m proud to celebrate him and his legacy in the pages of Pepperdine Magazine, the growth of which he has so enthusiastically empowered. On behalf of the entire magazine staff, we thank you, Andy, for inspiring us to tell the Pepperdine story, and we are profoundly grateful for all the ways your influence will be felt for years to come.