The crowd waves orange and navy bandanas as L.A.-based singer-songwriter, David Davis, sings at Firestone Fieldhouse on Sept. 21. Davis ended the Founder’s Day celebration with the song “Yes We Will.” Photos by Mary Elisabeth
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pepperdine’s Malibu campus, which opened for its first year on Sept. 12, 1972.
To commemorate this milestone, students, staff, faculty and alumni all gathered at Firestone Fieldhouse on Sept. 21 to celebrate Pepperdine’s history and the school’s founder — George Pepperdine.
“Today we celebrate an amazing past 85 years of Pepperdine history,” said Jessica Velicer, Student Government Association president, in her speech. “We are not only a community but a family.”
Following Velicer’s address, Sean Kavanaugh, manager of Transit Services, introduced Pepperdine’s Board of Regents. Then, alumni representatives walked in on a red carpet carrying flags representing multiple countries and decades.
Cooker Storm, associate professor of Sports Medicine, introduced the faculty of Pepperdine, and the deans of each school led them into the Fieldhouse.
“These people are not just my inspiring and intellectual peers but my brothers and sisters in Christ,” Storm said.
Dean of Seaver College, Michael Feltner, announced the Fine Arts department had canceled the previously scheduled choir performance due to an uptick of COVID-19 cases.
“Founder’s Day is very important but not as important as the health of our community,” Feltner said.
In his address, President Jim Gash spoke about the University’s previous annual themes — togetherness in 2019, belonging in 2020 and unity in 2021. This year’s theme is joy — inspired by Romans 15:13, Gash said.
“The words [of Romans 15:13] are timeless, important and relevant to all believers, at all times, in all places,” Gash said. “They encourage us to experience the true character of God, of His hope, joy, trust and peace.”
Gash said Pepperdine community members are on the receiving and giving ends in a culture of joy, and Pepperdine community members should strengthen and carry the spirit of joy to others.
“This is a community of joy; a community that pulls you up, that lifts you up, that holds you up and stands with you while you are a student and after you graduate,” Gash said.
Too often, happiness is fleeting and based purely on temporary, favorable circumstances, Gash said. However, he said joy is durable and unshakable since it transcends circumstance.
“Joy is rooted in our hope, and hope is the expectation of something certain,” Gash said. “Joy reminds us that we have nothing to lose, that we have already won. Joy is like a solid rock.”
Gash concluded his speech with a prayer and called for Pepperdine to become a place of unshakable joy — no matter what comes.
Later in the ceremony, senior basketball player Houston Mallette introduced a video about Pepperdine’s history. The video highlighted milestones, such as George Pepperdine’s $5 investment into Western Auto Parts in 1909, the Malibu Campus opening in 1972 and the start of construction on The Mountain at Mullin Park, which Gash said will begin breaking ground in early 2024.
The celebration continued with the lighting of the lantern by representatives from every school. During the lighting, David Davis, an L.A.-based singer-songwriter, sang the Pepperdine alma mater, “We Will Climb,” as students clapped along.
“The light of the lantern will shine through me,” Davis sang. “We will climb, Pepperdine.”
After the lighting, senior basketball player Myles Dennis introduced the family of George Pepperdine, who hope to continue Pepperdine’s vision for the University.
“I [George Pepperdine] seek to create an institution that promises to give education with a heart and a soul,” Dennis read. “One that spreads the Christian influence to all students. Yes, we need education, but the world needs Christ even more.”
To close the celebration, the crowd took a moment of silence for George Pepperdine, and Jay Brewster, provost and chief academic officier, gave a video address.
“God declares that he is clearly seen in what has been created,” Brewster said. “As we engage this academic year, let’s look for the signature of our Creator within the noise of this busy world.”
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