Meet the Staff
Senior Vice Chancellor
Rick Gibson (MBA '09, PKE 121), serves Pepperdine as senior vice chancellor charged with the task of enlarging Pepperdine's visibility, relevance, and influence in Los Angeles and other cities where Pepperdine is active. Gibson develops relationships with philanthropists and business partners, as well as corporate, government, religious, and community leaders, focusing his efforts on expanding Pepperdine's network. In his church relations role, Gibson guides this team in the development of programming for church leaders and leads the office that produces Harbor, the annual Pepperdine Bible Lectures as well as several ministry training programs in partnership with the Lilly Endowment.
Prior to joining the University in 1997, Gibson served for eleven years as a minister at the Mission Viejo Church of Christ in Orange County, California. An active volunteer in the community, he is a board member of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and LA5 Rotary Club of Los Angeles, serving as president in 2020.
Director of Operations, Church Relations
Joella Michael was raised in South Africa, a daughter of missionary parents. At the end of their time abroad, her family returned to Abilene, Texas, where she received her Bachelor of Business Administration from Abilene Christian University.
Joella's prior experience includes serving as Director of Community Relations for The Community House in Michigan, and Director of University Communications at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas. She is a Certified Faith-Based Meeting Professional (CFMP), a member of the Religious Conference Management Association, and served on the board of Meeting Planners International Southern California Chapter.
Director, Youth Leadership Initiative
For more than 20 years, Jeff Walling has been speaking before thousands each year in inspirational and motivational workshops and seminars across the globe. Having preached for some of the largest churches in the country, he is regularly called on to keynote for youth conferences.
Prior to joining Pepperdine, Walling served as the preaching minister of the Providence Road Church of Christ in Charlotte, North Carolina since 1997. He also served churches in Orange County, California, for over 20 years.
Jeff serves as Pepperdine's Director of the Youth Leadership Initiative, working to raise up the next generation of young Christian leaders. Jeff and his wife Cathryn have three married sons: Taylor and Courtney, with children Finn and Imogen; Riley and Megan; Spencer and Gabby.
Program Coordinator, Youth Leadership Initiative
Rachel Higgins grew up in the small town of Camas, Washington. While a Pacific Northwest local at heart, Malibu has become a second home to her. She graduated from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor's degree in Communication and Nonprofit Management. As a student, Rachel sang in Pepperdine's Christian A cappella group, Won by One.
Rachel serves as the Program Coordinator for the Youth Leadership Initiative and is passionate about raising up the next generation of Christian Leaders.
Manager, Church Relations
Tami has been with Pepperdine since 2006. She grew up in the Northwest as a "preacher's kid" and serving the church has been an active part of her life ever since.
Tami and her husband Jack have been in ministry throughout their marriage. They worship with the Conejo Valley Church of Christ where Jack has served since 1993. They have three adult, married children: Brendin and Kaitlyn; Caleb and Morgan; Alicia and Reilly.
Director, Ministry Outreach
Mike Cope was a minister for 35 years, preaching at Pine Valley Church of Christ in Wilmington, North Carolina (1982-84), College Church of Christ in Searcy, Arkansas (84-91), Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas (1991-2009), and the Golf Course Road Church of Christ in Midland, Texas (2011-2017). Mike is the author of five books, including 2011's Megan's Secrets, and edited Wineskins magazine for 12 years. He also edited 21st Century Christian for 5 years, working with Helen and Norvel Young when they were the senior editors.
In addition to directing Harbor, the Pepperdine Bible Lectures since 2013, he works with church leaders, speaks across the country, and directs Pepperdine's Thriving in Ministry and Thriving Congregations programs, provided by the Lilly Endowment Fund.
Mike and his wife, Diane, have been married over 40 years. Their son Matt is a physician in Abilene, Texas; and Chris is a family therapist in New York City. Their favorite pastime is being with their three grandchildren.
Associate Director, Ministry Outreach
Valerie Tinker is a native of Midland, Texas, where she currently resides. She graduated from Texas A&M and began a career in grant writing and serving non-profit organizations in various capacities.
Prior to working with Pepperdine's Thriving in Ministry program, which is funded by the Lilly Endowment Fund, Valerie served as the Executive Director of Unlock Ministries and as the Director of Community Outreach for Golf Course Road Church of Christ, both in Midland.
Valerie has been married to John for over 20 years and they have two children, Noah and Zoe. Valerie worships at Golf Course Road Church of Christ.