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Pepperdine University Celebrates 44th Annual Pepperdine Associates Dinner

The 44th annual Pepperdine Associates dinner, held Saturday, February 22, 2020, at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, brought together the Pepperdine community near and far in celebration of the evening’s theme, Ascend Together, the guiding inspiration for President Jim Gash’s (JD ’93) vision for the future of the University. 

Before President Gash took the stage to deliver his keynote address, Keith Hinkle (JD ’97), senior vice president for advancement and chief development officer, acknowledged the highlights of the last year and all that the University has achieved in the last six months under Gash’s leadership. Recognizing such events as Gash’s inauguration, the landmark gift from Rick and Tina Caruso to the renamed Caruso School of Law, and Gash’s relationship-building First 100 Days campaign, Hinkle remarked that while the field of advancement seeks to raise funds, every penny raised “is ultimately in the service of giving our Pepperdine students educational experiences that will truly change their lives.”

Hinkle also celebrated the dedicated friends of the University who continue to support the efforts to create unforgettable Pepperdine experiences. “You are the people truly responsible for that success—the people who continue to invest so generously in the Pepperdine idea, the ones who make it possible for us to turn our grand ideas into reality,” Hinkle said.

An invocation by Eric Wilson, associate dean of student affairs, director of spiritual life programs, and associate chaplain and preacher at the University Church of Christ, was followed by remarks by Chancellor Sara Young Jackson (’74), who spoke of a vision for Christian higher education that was imagined by George Pepperdine and realized by influential leaders in the Pepperdine community, including her parents, former Pepperdine president and first lady Norvel and Helen Young.

“We will not rest until Pepperdine reaches the top of the list of premier universities, all while making it accessible to any young person who aspires to lead with competence, ingenuity, and integrity,” Jackson said. “We see a Pepperdine that truly reaches the world and impacts it for good.”

Introduced by Dee Anna Smith (’86), chair of the Pepperdine Board of Regents, President Gash took the stage and began his keynote address by recalling the first days of his presidency and relating it to a relay race. “Too often at the end of a leg, the runner is limping or staggering,” Gash said. “That’s not the case at Pepperdine.”

Gash continued to inspire the crowd with his vision focused on a commitment to developing leaders of faith, courage, character, and creativity who impact and influence the world. “What the world needs most is what we do best,” he said. “That is our why and that is our mountain.”

Looking beyond Pepperdine’s Malibu campus, Gash invited the audience to envision the transformational influence of Pepperdine’s mission of purpose, service, and leadership on the city of Los Angeles and around the world. “Our influence can’t be limited to places of power,” remarked Gash. “We must also be in places of poverty.”

“Simply stated, the world needs more Pepperdine,” Gash continued. “Our gift to the world is our students. Our mandate is to train up and send out these students as brilliant leaders of faith, character, courage, and creativity to awaken a movement of global leadership.”

The evening culminated with a rousing performance by GRAMMY® and Academy Award-winning performer Jennifer Hudson, who entertained the audience with her hit songs “Spotlight” and “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” as well as a captivating performance of “Hallelujah” originally composed by Jeff Buckley.

Learn more about the Pepperdine Associates program.