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40 Alumni Under 40 - Pepperdine Magazine

40 Under 40

Pepperdine Magazine is the feature magazine for Pepperdine University and its growing community of alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends.

At Pepperdine, purpose, service, and leadership is more than a mission statement. It’s a way of life, reflected in the impact and achievements of more than 100,000 extraordinary alumni around the globe. This year’s inaugural 40 under 40 alumni represent just a sample of these incredible stories. Selected from hundreds of nominations, these young entrepreneurs, executives, doctors, lawyers, educators, and public servants are innovating in their fields, inspiring their communities, and leading by example as the next generation of Pepperdine Waves.

Excerpts have been edited for length and clarity. See each honoree’s full responses: pepperdine.edu/40under40.

Kimberly (Mansen) Amundsen - Pepperdine Magazine



1. Kimberly (Mansen) Amundson (’10)

Program Officer, PATH

Seattle, Washington


Describe your success:

I’ve been a part of a team that is fighting malnutrition from preconception through the stages of growth and development to help nourish children to thrive. We do this by innovating in the space of nutrition and global development to address issues in malnutrition, stunting, and disease.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine continues to mean community to me, whether that lies in friendships carried forward or new friends that also went to Pepperdine. There is a unique camaraderie between Waves and a sense of deeper meaning, holding each other to higher expectations of integrity and mission.





James Stephen Acadian - Pepperdine Magazine2. James Stephen Azadian (JD ’01)

Shareholder and Chair of Appellate, Writs, and Constitutional Law Practice, Enterprise Counsel Group ALC

Laguna Beach, California


How does Pepperdine play into your success?

My law professors modeled honest, hard work with a dogged commitment to integrity in the practice and study of law. But they equally modeled bringing a humanitarian component to all aspects of the service lawyers provide their clients. The “whole lawyer” is not simply a great legal technician or one who is able to develop top business for her or his firm. Pepperdine Law teaches the importance of becoming the “whole lawyer.” I don’t know that any other law school can make that same claim.

Who’s your inspiration?

In a professional sense, I have always been inspired by Abraham Lincoln. I doubt there’s been a finer advocate or communicator than him. I often reread his Bixby Letter, which a friend blew up on a poster board for me, and which hangs in my office. I am awed by Lincoln’s unmatched ability to say the right word at the right time.





Meri Barnes - Pepperdine Magazine3. Meri Barnes (’04)

Founder/CEO, The Shop Forward Creative Director, Michael Gerald LTD

Santa Monica, California


Describe your success:

I am most proud of starting the online fundraising platform The Shop Forward (TheShopForward.com). In less than two years since launching, The Shop Forward has raised nearly $1 million for various charities. We’ve partnered with some amazing influencers to raise funds for deserving causes through apparel and accessories sales.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine taught me to make giving back part of my growth strategy, which in turn made a huge impact on the foundation of my work. The business program at Pepperdine instilled the importance of ethics, values, and philanthropy. At the same time, it also equipped me with business skills

and experience that I use on a daily basis as an entrepreneur.






Meredith (Sullivan) Benton - Pepperdine Magazine4. Meredith (Sullivan) Benton (’01)

Senior Program Officer, The Healing Trust

Nashville, Tennessee


Describe your success:

My success is in service to others as I advocate for change in the communities in which I live and serve. I have worked on both sides of the political aisle in service to a U.S. senator and two governors. I also served at the Carter Center, President Jimmy Carter’s organization, planning election observation missions and traveling to Africa to see new democracies host their first elections. I now lead a team that grants millions of dollars to Middle Tennessee nonprofits to improve health outcomes.

Who’s your inspiration?

My husband, Jim Benton, who graduated from Seaver in 2000, inspires me. While he passed away four years ago, he taught me so much about love and life. I also learned that leadership and success is not about accomplishments, but rather about positively impacting the lives of those around you. His life and legacy is a daily reminder of what’s truly important in this life, and I work hard to live that out in honor of him.






Tara (Lawrence) Bracher - Pepperdine Magazine5. Tara (Lawrence) Bracher (’04, MA ’09)

President, Hats Off for Cancer

St. Louis, Missouri


Describe your success:

I founded a national nonprofit organization, Hats Off for Cancer, at age 14 to focus on improving the quality of life for kids and teens battling cancer. We do this through the collection and donation of hats for those young people who lose their hair during their cancer treatments. In the past 20 years, the organization has been able to collect and donate nearly three million hats and send them to deserving kids and teens battling cancer around the world.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

As a student, Pepperdine embraced Hats Off for Cancer and held hat drives through my sorority, Alpha Phi, along with other student groups on campus. Now as an alumna, Pepperdine Family Camp held a Hats Off for Cancer activity for kids and parents, making hats and writing notes of encouragement for those battling cancer. Pepperdine’s emphasis on service helped to keep me focused on my goals of continuing my organization and the importance of giving back.






Pierce Brown - Pepperdine Magazine6. Pierce Brown (’10)

Author/Screenwriter, Penguin Random House

Los Angeles, California


Describe your success:

In 2014 I released a novel with Random House called Red Rising. It managed to sneak onto the New York Times Bestsellers list at number 16. In 2015 its sequel, Golden Son, landed at number six. This year, the final book in the trilogy, Morning Star, debuted at number one. My novels have been translated into 33 languages and a film is in development with Universal Studios.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

The real triumph of Pepperdine, as far as I’m concerned, belongs to the Great Books Colloquium, particularly to Dr. Don Marshall—one of the giants who shaped my brain back when it was just a lumpy, arrogant, SAT-obsessed ball of clay. He never tried to teach me what to think, but he always endeavored to teach me how to think.

What’s next?

It’s the engineers, scientists, businessmen, and humanitarians who really change this world. But each of their journeys begins with a dream. I want to make them dream of worlds better and worse and different than this one. Whether it’s through books, TV, film, or comics, that’s what I want my life to be about—waking the wild imagination in others.






Amber Coffman - Pepperdine Magazine7. Amber Coffman (’04)

Development Director, Best Buddies International

Marina del Rey, California


How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Attending Pepperdine was a gift and an extension of the foundation upon which I was raised. Purpose. Service. Leadership. Being influenced in such a way at a pivotal time in my life led me to the life I now have, which embodies those three principles.

Who’s your inspiration?

Mother Teresa is a constant in my life. She inspired me to start my own nonprofit at the age of 10 and to live a life of service, seeing the face of God in everyone I serve. Her spirit is alive and well in me.

What’s next?

I would like to find a creative way to influence people globally about the importance of service and advocacy, making it attractive and attainable to everyone.






Todd Dildine - Pepperdine Magazine8. Todd Dildine (’09)

Pastor, Lakeview Church of Christ

Chicago, Illinois


Describe your success:

I’m a young pastor at a great church in a neighborhood that experiences too much chaos. What I am most excited about moving forward is the direction my church has chosen to take. Instead of retreating towards comfort and safety, my church is advancing towards the pain and violence in our neighborhood.

What’s next?

I minister in a neighborhood in need of healing. In the next five years I hope that the graduation rates increase significantly in my neighborhood, that gun violence drops by 50 percent, and people on the margins are brought into leadership within my church. In 10 years I hope that I can inspire other churches to play a bigger role in lifting their neighborhoods out of poverty and violence and into healing and hope.






Elizabeth Edwards - Pepperdine Magazine9. Elizabeth Edwards (’99)

Founder and President, Volume Public Relations

Highlands Ranch, Colorado


How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine helped me recognize the need to fill the void that exists in communication, education, and execution. By not having that combination, Pepperdine gave me a world class communication education and then triggered in me the personal desire to become a lifelong student of psychology and neuroscience in order to bring to the table what does not exist anywhere else.

What’s next?

To continue establishing Volume as the nationwide premier integrated communication and PR agency that delivers the most results and precision outcomes possible. Not just practicing the art of communication, but also adding to it the science of communication.

Favorite quote?

“Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.” –Winston Churchill






Ken Ellsworth - Pepperdine Magazine10. Ken Ellsworth (MBA ’10)

Senior Manager, Customer Analytics and Strategy, Intuit

San Diego, California


Describe your success:

I now lead an analytics organization at Intuit that partners closely with senior leadership up to the CEO to make better business decisions. The work we are doing directly influences go-to-market strategy, identifies new target customer segments to pursue, measures retention and customer lifetime value, evaluates multi-million dollar bets the company places, and makes strategic business recommendations daily. I have been fortunate enough to lead key initiatives that have had a material impact on the bottom line of multiple Fortune 500 companies.

How do you prepare for a busy day?

If I have a big presentation I will write an outline of everything I want to say, including introductions and jokes. I’ll read over it a few times and practice a bit before going in. This makes sure I don’t miss anything I wanted to cover and helps me appear more natural.






Zeke Fortenberry - Pepperdine Magazine11. Zeke Fortenberry (JD ’07)

Assistant District Attorney, Collin County District Attorney’s Office

Dallas, Texas


Describe your success:

I have been trying criminal cases to juries since my first month in the district attorney’s office. What is more important to me than my success in the courtroom is my commitment to giving back and teaching others who are interested in becoming a trial attorney. The time I spend teaching trial advocacy, coaching mock trial, and mentoring law students is what makes me feel most successful when I see those students grow into thriving young lawyers.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine Law taught me the fundamental skills to be a great trial advocate. But perhaps more importantly, at Pepperdine Law I also learned to integrate my faith into my career. As a Christian lawyer, I strive to practice law with the utmost integrity and the highest ethical standards.






Danielle L. Greg - Pepperdine Magazine12. Danielle L. Greg (’01, PsyD ’10)

Clinical Psychologist, Private Practice

Calabasas, California

What does being one of Pepperdine’s 40 Under 40 honorees mean to you?

This honor is particularly meaningful to me because I was diagnosed with cancer during my final year as a Pepperdine GSEP student. At that time, I was not sure that I would be able to carry out the career that I had long dreamed of and prepared for. I am extremely grateful for the work I have been able to do since then and for Pepperdine acknowledging my achievements.

What’s next?

I plan to continue my work in private practice and perhaps begin teaching some university courses soon. I would also love to write a book about developing a healthy body image. I am currently brainstorming about a children’s book focused on helping young girls appreciate their bodies for all of its magnificent abilities. Additionally, I would like to do some advocacy work related to the need for more mental health services in our society.





Marinela Gombosev - Pepperdine Magazine13. Marinela Gombosev (MBA ’12)

Executive Vice President, Operations and Marketing Evoke Neuroscience

Corona del Mar, California


Describe your success:

In my current role at Evoke Neuroscience, our team is taking on the important mission of providing access to advanced-brain-function care to patients concerned about their memory and cognitive function—right in their physician’s office. I am proud that our company was ranked number 131 in the Inc. 500 | 5000 fastest growing private companies in the United States.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine’s MBA program created a paradigm shift in my career and in my aspirations. It catapulted me from an engineering career into the world of global business and leadership where I could leverage my background in product development into building and growing teams and companies.






Keith Gormley - Pepperdine Magazine14. Keith Gormley (’08)

Vice President, Social Marketing and Communication, Prudential Financial

Montclair, New Jersey


Describe your success:

Since graduating with a master’s degree in communication from Pepperdine, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some really amazing brands—both large and small—helping them to form meaningful connections and engage with audiences through digital. I’ve spent my short career looking for unique ways to create value and innovate through digital, inspiring audiences to take action.

What’s next?

My outlook and plans are simple: be a leader and find ways to inspire. And I will continue to push for innovation and positive change by following the best advice I’ve ever received: “Don’t look for a new job; do your job better.”






Seth A. Haye - Pepperdine Magazine15. Seth A. Haye (’02)

Executive Director, Morgan Stanley

Westlake Village, California


Describe your success:

I have been very fortunate to help grow our wealth management practice at Morgan Stanley to more than $1 billion in assets (as of November 1, 2016). We take pride in saying that virtually all of our clients are also personal friends.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

I feel like I owe much of my success to Pepperdine, so much so that if it weren’t for my association with Pepperdine I don’t think I would be in my current industry or be working with my business partner of 13 years. We met at a Pepperdine Crest Board meeting in 2000 when I was a student speaker and he was a new prospective board member.

Who’s your inspiration?

Some of the people who inspire me are longtime Pepperdine administrators who have helped to shape the University, legends like Charlie Runnels, who taught me what it means to be a good friend and thoughtful to others, and Andy Benton who speaks with unparalleled sincerity.






Lori A. Harer - Pepperdine Magazine16. Lori A. Harer (JD ’07)

Attorney at Law, The Law Offices of Lori A. Darakjian

Woodland Hills, California


Describe your success:

After nine years of working for highly accomplished family law attorneys, I started my own practice and have had the opportunity to make a very direct impact on my clients. I feel most successful when my clients are less anxious about the legal process because they trust me to protect the most important people and things in their lives.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I received a minor in education from UCLA and in my pre-law career taught 6th grade math and science at LAUSD. The students were at an impressionable age and a lot of them lacked positive role models. I was passionate about making math and science fun for the students and showing them that being smart is cool. I would love to return to academia in a law school setting in the future.

Who is your inspiration?

While at Pepperdine I interned at the YWCA Glendale Domestic Violence Project in collaboration with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County to provide pro bono legal assistance to domestic violence survivors. Their strength and determination to protect themselves and their children inspire me daily to provide the best and safest outcomes for my clients.






Stefan Holt - Pepperdine Magazine17. Stefan Holt (’09)

Anchor and Reporter, NBCUniversal

New York, New York


Describe your success:

It has been a fun adventure that has taken me to two of the country’s top television markets working as an anchor and reporter. This year I became the 4 PM anchor for the company’s flagship station, WNBC-TV in New York. Prior to New York I anchored the morning newscast at WMAQ-TV in Chicago where I was also recognized with Emmy Awards for anchoring and for spot news.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine is where I fell in love with journalism. I remember flipping through channels one day in the dorm and found myself watching a student-run newscast called “Newswaves.” I thought to myself, “This looks cool!” Kind of on a whim, I went to an information session and then auditioned. I was immediately hooked! I’ve always had the news bug, but it was the Pepperdine program that really helped me build the practical skills that are essential for anyone who wants to be a reporter. By the time I graduated from Pepperdine, I was fully prepared to shoot video, edit, and report the news.






Captain Justina “Tia” Hooper - Pepperdine Magazine18. Capt. Justina “Tia” Hooper (’07)

Chief, Recruiting Branch, HQ U.S. Air Force JAG Corps

Alexandria, Virginia


Describe your success:

Pepperdine’s core values motivated me during my four years, specifically, service. It was the idea of service that pushed me towards law school, where I knew I could learn a skill that would allow me to help others. And it was the idea of service that led me to pursue a career as an attorney in the U.S. Air Force, where I knew I could serve my country.

What’s next?

I hope to promote to the rank of major within the next year, and along with that promotion I plan to take on more leadership responsibilities within the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps. In the next couple of years I plan on being a deputy staff judge advocate, which means that I will be second-in-command to a staff judge advocate who leads a legal office at an air force base.






Hope Horner - Pepperdine Magazine19. Hope Horner (’09)

CEO, Lemonlight

Santa Monica, California


Describe your success:

I currently own a company called Lemonlight. Our team has grown to 30 people in two years. We measure our success on team happiness, client happiness, and financial growth, all of which have steadily increased month over month since inception.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

The most important thing that Pepperdine taught me is the motto, “Freely ye received, freely give.” I can confidently say that by taking the time to help others on their own path, it has opened me up in ways I had never thought possible.






Arjun Jolly - Pepperdine Magazine20. Arjun Jolly (MBA ’14)

COO/Cofounder, adQuadrant, Inc.

Irvine, California


What does being one of Pepperdine’s 40 Under 40 honorees mean to you?

This recognition affirms that growth and achievement are created by stepping outside of your comfort zone. Hard work alone is no longer enough to create value in today’s world. Now it’s about pushing yourself beyond your own limits and doing the things that intimidate you in order to live a life filled with happiness and success.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine has exposed me to the foundational elements that are crucial for building businesses and, more importantly, lifelong relationships. I choose to leverage that education by sharing my knowledge and supporting others in their journey towards their own success and personal growth so that we, collectively, will have a beneficial imprint on society.

Who’s your inspiration?

My father is my greatest inspiration. Like many first-generation immigrants, he never let his unpleasant predicament deter him from succeeding, though this isn’t why he inspires me. What inspires me is his altruistic nature. He often says “to truly be successful, you must bring those around you to your level of success.”






Travis D. Jones - Pepperdine Magazine21. Travis D. Jones (’11)

Judge Advocate (JAG), U.S. Navy

Newport, Rhode Island


Describe your success:

Currently I am a judge advocate for the United States Navy. JAGs, as we are commonly known, serve as legal advisors in a number of different areas of law including criminal, administrative, international, and operational. Specifically, over the last few years the probability of obtaining a commission as a judge advocate has been shockingly low with selection rates hovering between four and seven percent of the thousands of candidates that apply to each selection board.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

I can say with complete confidence that I would not be the person I am today without the training Pepperdine provided me. Not only did Pepperdine train me intellectually, but also spiritually. Pepperdine ingrained in me the concept of having a vocation and using that vocation to serve the greater good.

What’s next?

Ultimately, whenever my time in the navy does end, I want to transition into academia as a law school professor. I spent a lot of my time in law school teaching younger students the art of trial advocacy and the intricacies of the Federal Rules of Evidence. I want to make a career out of developing the next generation of trial advocates.






Anthony Kannada - Pepperdine Magazine22. Anthony Kennada (’08)

Vice President, Marketing, Gainsight

San Francisco, California


What does being one of Pepperdine’s 40 Under 40 honorees mean to you?

Being a 40 Under 40 honoree is a good reminder that our actions represent not just ourselves, but also the affiliations we carry with us after graduation. Whether our alma mater or company, our family or customers, we owe it to the communities in which we belong to live with intention.

Describe your success:

Since my time at Pepperdine, I’ve had the opportunity to move to Silicon Valley and play a part in the stories of some of the most influential startups in enterprise software. Today I’m building the next great category of enterprise software in customer success.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine’s commitment to instilling Christian values into vocation has given me a context in which to frame my perspective on career. I can share my faith authentically, not by rocking a bumper sticker on my laptop, but rather by serving my employees, leaders, and customers while doing exceptional work and giving God the glory rather than claiming it as my own.






Bounmany Kyle Keojampa - Pepperdine Magazine23. Bounmany Kyle Keojampa (’01)

Surgeon, Del Rey MD

Los Angeles, California


How does Pepperdine play into your success?

My experience with Pepperdine’s international program in Catacamas, Honduras, helped to foster my career in medicine. I experienced firsthand a humanitarian m

Fall 2016

12/07/2016 02:30:00 PM
Pepperdine Magazine is the feature magazine for Pepperdine University and its growing community of alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends.
Associated Women for Pepperdine - Pepperdine University
Sara Alamdar
The Cut
Since its founding in 1958, Associated Women for Pepperdine (AWP) has diligently dedicated nearly six decades to raising scholarship funds for students.

Founded by Pepperdine first lady Helen Young in an effort to form a women’s group to support Pepperdine College, AWP has become famously known for serving pies and coffee late in the evenings during the week of Pepperdine Bible Lectures each spring, with all the proceeds going directly to funding student scholarships.

AWP members - Pepperdine UniversityAWP members at the 1963-1964 annual conference at President Norvel Young’s home on the Los Angeles campus.

The tradition began in the mid-1980s, when former Church Relations director Jerry Rushford combined his great love for pie with his night owl tendencies. He suggested that AWP members serve homemade pies to lecture attendees immediately following the late-night sessions, providing the community with the opportunity to visit old classmates and colleagues in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

More than three decades later, hundreds of guests continue to gather at Waves Cafe during Pepperdine Bible Lectures to enjoy the delicious pastries with friends and family.

This holiday season, you can share these delicious pie recipes from your family at Pepperdine with your family at home.

From the A Woman’s Paradise of Recipes cookbook

Vanilla Pecan Pie

3 eggs, beaten

1⁄2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

3 tablespoons butter

1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

1 tablespoon flour

1 nine-inch (9") unbaked pie shell

Pecan halves (for topping)

Combine eggs, brown sugar, and corn syrup. In a separate bowl, melt butter and add vanilla. Mix all ingredients together. Blend chopped pecans with flour and stir into the mixture. Pour into a nine-inch, pastry-lined pie plate. Place pecan halves over top. Bake in a 375-degree, preheated oven for 40 minutes or until firm. Garnish with whipped cream.

Apple Pie Goody

1 can apple pie filling

2 tablespoons flour

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and pour into a large baking dish.


3⁄4 cup brown sugar

3⁄4 cup oats

3⁄4 cup flour

1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 cup melted butter

Combine all ingredients. Mix and crumble over top of apples. Bake in 350-degree, preheated oven until bubbly and brown (approximately 30 to 40 minutes).