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Pepperdine University Announces Launch of Ken Starr Institute for Faith, Law, and Public Service at the Caruso School of Law

Pepperdine Caruso School of Law

More than 250 friends of the Caruso School of Law gathered at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, Monday to celebrate the launch of the Ken Starr Institute for Faith, Law, and Public Service and pay tribute to the life and legacy of legal scholar, public servant, and former Caruso School of Law dean Ken Starr. The evening featured a conversation with the Honorable Samuel A. Alito, Jr., associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The evening included a performance of the national anthem by Pepperdine graduate, opera singer, and Grammy Award winner Jessica Rivera Shafer ('96) and remarks from the dean of Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, Paul Caron; president of Pepperdine University, Jim Gash (JD '93); chancellor of Pepperdine University, Sara Young Jackson ('74); and chair of Pepperdine’s Board of Regents, Dee Anna Smith ('86).

Justice Alito - Ken Starr Institute Launch Dinner“I sometimes wonder what historians will think of the United States hundreds and hundreds of years from now,” Justice Alito said to the more than 250 attendees. "I hope that one thing they will say if they are asked how did the United States contribute to the development of civilization is this: The United States of America taught the world that it is possible for a religiously diverse population to live together amicably, harmoniously, and productively with mutual respect. I am sure that was Ken Starr’s vision for the country he loved and served. And I am sure we all hope and trust that the institute at Pepperdine that bears his name will, among other things, work toward that end.”

Through a framework of faith and in the spirit of ideological diversity, the Ken Starr Institute for Faith, Law, and Public Service will cultivate a community of scholars dedicated to the pursuit of justice, upholding the rule of law, and serving the nation and the world with integrity and compassion. A key component of the institute will be high-profile endowed chairs focused on the exploration of legal thought in the three vital areas of faith, law, and public service. The educational experiences offered through the institute will strengthen students for careers of service and leadership and encourage them to apply for judicial clerkships as well as positions with government officials, district attorneys, and congressional offices.

“Ken Starr’s impact on my life as a law student and practitioner was critical to my development as a lawyer and a leader,” said president Jim Gash (JD ’93). “Dean Starr’s unwavering faith and commitment to his values throughout his career served as a consummate example of ethical leadership. During Ken’s tenure as dean of the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, the students, faculty, and staff were blessed to have witnessed his intellect, his heart for service, and his humanity. How fortunate we are to ensure Ken’s great legacy continues through the work of this critical scholarly institute.”

As students engage in dedicated scholarship, they will be trained to navigate complex legal landscapes and make meaningful contributions to society in support of religious liberty. The institute will also position the next generation of scholars to establish Caruso Law as a leading contributor to the national discourse on religious liberty by way of high-profile conferences on religious liberty and law and religion on Pepperdine’s Malibu campus, at the University’s Washington, DC, campus, and at the Château d’Hauteville in Switzerland. These conferences will bring together scholars and practitioners with the goal of influencing public debates on the relationship of faith and law. 

Paul Caron - Ken Starr Institute Launch Dinner“Ken Starr guided Pepperdine Caruso Law's ascent into the top tier of American law schools and cemented our identity as a preeminent Christian law school. I am thrilled that Ken’s legacy will endure through the work of the institute that bears his name,” said Caron. “Ken Starr scholarships will attract talented students who otherwise would not be able to afford a life-changing Pepperdine legal education, and Ken Starr chairs will be filled with nationally recognized scholars and teachers who will shape the law through their research and shepherd our students."

In the six years under Ken Starr’s deanship, Caruso Law made significant academic and reputational strides as the school began its ascent into the top tier of law schools nationwide. While serving as dean of Caruso Law, Starr devoted himself to the academic enterprise and brought his considerable legal knowledge into the classroom. He regularly taught courses in his areas of expertise, including constitutional law, religion and the constitution, and appellate advocacy. 

During his tenure, Starr modeled the servant leadership he hoped to inspire in future lawyers by taking on pro bono cases and volunteering at local humanitarian organizations. As an academic mentor and leader, Starr is warmly remembered by his former students and colleagues for taking a personal interest in their professional lives and encouraging them to pursue academic and scholarly excellence along with generosity of spirit.