In the 1960s and 70s his hand played a vital role in transforming Pepperdine from the quaint small Los Angeles college to the renowned Malibu university it is today. His face has become an ever-present fixture one the sidelines at Waves sporting events. He has become a father and a grandfather in the Pepperdine family as three of his children two of their spouses and two of his grandchildren have graduated with Pepperdine diplomas. One more granddaughter is currently a senior at Seaver College.
Now his name will forever be engraved in stone on the corner of Banowsky Boulevard and John Tyler drive on the sign that reads “Charles B. Runnels Sports and Recreation Village.”
More than 200 guests showed Sept. 13 to the ceremony that dedicated the Waves’ athletic complex in his name. The complex includes the Firestone Fieldhouse Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center Eddy D. Field Stadium Tari Frahm Rokus Field and Stotsenberg Track.
“Charlie’s fingerprint is all over this campus President Andrew K. Benton told the ceremony attendees. And now his thumbprint will be on the corner of Banowsky Boulevard and John Tyler Drive.”
Runnels who is referred to affectionately as Charlie by nearly all who reference him is known for being more than just the prestigious titles he’s held during his time at Pepperdine including being the vice chancellor from 1971 to 1984 the chancellor from then until 2006 and since then chancellor emeritus.
“It’s part of his DNA to love on people who love Pepperdine said Susan Giboney, who graduated from Pepperdine’s L.A. campus in 1962 and recently retired from teaching in the teacher education division. He’s dapper and suave and he’s wonderful. My kids love him. You don’t have to be my age to appreciate him.”
Basketball player Gus Clardy from Runnels’ hometown of Nacogdoches Texas spoke at the dedication ceremony and gave witness to Runnels’ role as an avid Waves sports fan.
Clardy said he was in the middle of a game and heard some yelling at him from the sidelines. He thought it was his coach.
“I turned around and looked— and there was Chancellor Runnels there yelling at me telling me to go get the rebound.”
When Runnels took the podium he told the crowd “Some of my happiest moments have been in the stands cheering for the Waves.”
Pepperdine has been more than just a school for the Runnels family. It’s a way of life.
“Pepperdine and family and church. That’s been our way of life. It’s never been boring said Duke Runnels, Charles’ son. He and his wife, Ginger, both attended Pepperdine in the 70s. Ginger said she was a sophomore when she moved from the L.A. campus to the new Malibu one.
During the time of the move, Charles’ son Raleigh was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. He died when he was just 17, and now the swimming pool next to Firestone Fieldhouse bears his name: the Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool.
Runnels was also known as a man who worked tirelessly to build up the network of friends and donors for Pepperdine, all in the name of students.
Edward Yang, a graduate of Pepperdine’s key executive program and a member of the Board of Regents, commended Runnel for his efforts in growing the network of Pepperdine supporters with his personal touch. Yang said Runnels brought him to his position on the Board of Regents.
He’s a man of friends and he defines what friendship is Yang said. He really cares for people.”
In the language of higher education having friends means having money. And although Runnels was commended for his fund-raising abilities it was his particular attitude of student-centered fund-raising that drew praise.
Benton said in his address that Runnels personally raised money for hundreds if not thousands of student scholarships and always kept the students on the forefront of his mind.
“It’s all about the students. It’s never about him Benton said.
Runnels had a philosophy in his fundraising that attracted many people to become friends of the University.
I don’t want you to give money to the school Runnels said he would tell potential donors, I want you to invest in our young people.”
Keith Hinkle senior vice president for Advancement and public relations introduced and concluded the dedication ceremony and regent Virginia Braun one of the benefactors behind the ceremony and a long-time friend of Runnels also spoke.
“I just wanted to say Charlie Braun said in her closing words, You’re the greatest.”