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Annual Waves Weekend Celebration Welcomes Record Number of Students and Alumni to Malibu Campus

Waves Weekend 2023 - Pepperdine University

Pepperdine students on a carnival ride at Waves Weekend 2023.From Friday, October 6, to Sunday, October 8, Pepperdine University hosted the 13th annual Waves Weekend, which brought together current students, family members, and alumni for three days of celebration and community engagement. This year, the event hosted a record number of alumni, as more than 500 former students made the journey to Malibu to celebrate special events and milestones, including the 60th anniversary of the University’s Heidelberg campus.

“Waves Weekend was a resounding success,” says Hung Le (’87, MA ’03), Pepperdine University’s senior vice chancellor for alumni affairs. “Hundreds of alumni joined with many more families of our students for meaningful and memorable celebrations. Friendships were renewed and strengthened. Many of our alumni had not returned to Pepperdine in more than three decades; it was so wonderful to get to tell and retell stories, to catch up on one another's lives, and to be reminded of the innumerable blessings that have come from our time at Pepperdine.”

Each year, Pepperdine’s Malibu campus transforms into a fun and festive carnival-like experience, where attendees enjoy rides on the ferris wheel, carnival games, and food trucks. This year, Firestone Fieldhouse was once again bursting with friends and fans for Blue and Orange Madness, which officially jump-started the Waves basketball season on Friday evening and introduced the men’s and women’s basketball team to the Pepperdine community in grand fashion. The highlight of the evening was a historic half-court shot by president Jim Gash (JD ’93), whose skills on the court earned one student free tuition for one year, a moment that was met with an eruption of cheers and celebration. 

Pepperdine Blue and Orange Madness 2023Waves Weekend also offered current students the opportunity to introduce their campus life to their families who came to visit from near and far. Parents enjoyed the opportunity to attend classes and office hour sessions alongside their students and to participate in numerous fun campus events. 

Recognizing and celebrating the class of 1993, graduates from the 1980s decade, alumni of the Year in Europe program cohort (1987–1988), and alumni of Pepperdine University’s Heidelberg campus, generations of former graduates returned to Malibu to reunite with their former classmates and professors. With an itinerary of receptions, tours, and on-campus activities, each respective segment of alumni enjoyed the chance to reconnect with one another and their home institution. 

The largest of these celebratory gatherings centered around the 60th anniversary of Pepperdine University’s Heidelberg campus. In total, more than 600 members of the University community registered to attend the event, including approximately 334 alumni. President and first lady Jim and Joline (’92) Gash welcomed attendees to the Brock House, where they shared memories of their time abroad while enjoying a variety of German foods and entertainment. 

Heidelberg Grand Reunion 2023“The Heidelberg Grand Reunion was incredible,” says Le. “Alumni from as early as 1965 joined with students who just returned from Heidelberg this past summer to reminisce and revel in the goodness found in being 'Heidelbergers.' The presence of Herr Daniel Daugherty and Frau Sabine Luft, two major pillars of the Heidelberg program, brought a special depth of meaning to our reunion.” 

A number of distinguished guests filled the Heidelberg reunion’s guest list. Bonnie Watts (’65), who was a member of the first cohort to study abroad at the international campus, was in attendance alongside Sabine Luft, professor of German, and Daniel Daugherty, former Heidelberg program director of 30 years––who both invested the majority of their careers to serving Pepperdine’s International Programs. In addition, Germany’s deputy consul general Dirk Schulz offered remarks thanking the University for having helped build American and German relations throughout the better half of a century, noting the value of the “meaningful people-to-people connection that fosters peace more than politics ever can.” The Pepperdine Choir also entertained attendees with a rendition of "I Lost My Heart in Heidelberg" ("Ich hab' mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren" in German) and a parody of ABBA's "Dancing Queen" honoring Daugherty. 

“Having been born and raised in Germany, I was particularly moved by the realization that Pepperdine built a unique program fostering people-to-people connections only 18 years after the end of World War II," shared Karin Shaw, Pepperdine’s vice chancellor of global engagement and development.

Pepperdine alumni from the 1980sThe class of 1993, graduates from the 1980s, and the Year in Europe (1987–1988) program cohort each came together in a similar fashion, communing with one another in separate receptions over food, memories, and laughter. For many of these alumni, this particular Pepperdine homecoming was decades in the making, and Le reported that the enthusiasm and spirit of their celebrations made a tangible and positive impact on the weekend as a whole. 

"The Pepperdine 1980s decade reunion during Waves Weekend was an opportunity to gather with alumni friends and go down memory lane,” says Sylvia Franson (’87), a distinguished alumna and one of the reunion committee members. “It reminded us of the incredible journey that we embarked upon together during our time at Pepperdine, filled with hopes and dreams. It wasn’t just a reunion—it was a fun chapter in our lives revisited and a bond rekindled in the most nostalgic of ways. We didn’t want it to end.”