Ted McAllister, the Edward. L. Gaylord Chair and professor of Public Policy, stands outside Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy. McAllister died in late January, according to SPP’s Jan. 27 news release, and left an impact on many people at Pepperdine. Photo courtesy of Lena Pacifici
Ted began teaching at SPP in its second year, 1998, wrote Pete Peterson, dean of SPP in a Feb. 8 email to the Graphic. Ted taught Roots of American Order, Great Books and Great Ideas and several electives, and he created a “uniquely” Pepperdine curriculum, Peterson wrote.
Ron Cox, professor of Religion and interim dean of International Programs, said he has known Ted and his family since 2005 — their children were in a church youth group together, they served on the University Faculty Council together, led a reading group together and more.
“I don’t think I could summarize Ted in a sentence or a couple of words,” Cox said. “I mentioned his integrity. I mentioned his candor. I mentioned his thoughtfulness and mentioned his willingness to be contrarian if it helped to bring about clear understanding, and he was a person of great conviction.”
Peterson wrote he and Ted worked together on the Why Place Matters conference series, which investigated the scale and scope of policymaking, and the Quest For Community conferences at Pepperdine, which addressed loneliness and alienation.
“Professor McAllister constantly pushed students and colleagues to consider the human dimension of public policy — to ask contextual questions about policy decisions rooted in history and human nature,” Peterson wrote.
Regardless of the context, Cox said Ted made him think about the meaning of the words he used — by questioning and engaging with Cox in conversation.
“If he disagreed, he wouldn’t hold back from sharing that,” Cox said. “At the same time, he was incredibly generous. So he could be very straightforward in his critique and very honest in where he disagreed, but he cared deeply about me and about the people around him, and he cared deeply about Pepperdine.”
Ted was also “the driving force” in creating community among the faculty at Pepperdine, Cox said.
“He relished the idea of poking and prodding those people for greater authenticity, more than you would ever want to have to be in their role,” Cox said.
Everything Ted did was to strengthen those around him, Cox said.
“If I were introducing somebody to Ted, and I have the opportunity to set them up before we met Ted, I would encourage them to strap up and hold on tight and to be themselves but allow for Ted to be himself,” Cox said.
Cox said Ted gave that honesty and integrity in return.
“There’s really no showmanship about him,” Cox said. “There was no putting on airs; he was exactly who he was.”
Even if someone did not agree with Ted, his desire to help reach that clarity of thought and challenge others showed through, Cox said.
“He didn’t want people to agree with him,” Cox said. “In fact, he really appreciated when people didn’t agree with him, what he wanted was honest dialogue,” Cox said.
Ted created a place for people to communicate and engage with one another, Cox said,
“It’s a huge loss,” Cox said. “Because he helped me own what I care about and to step forward and express it and defend it. And I’m part of a group of people who are indebted to him and who will miss him tremendously.”
In hearing from SPP alumni, Peterson wrote he learned new ways Ted stayed in contact with graduates over the years.
An SPP graduate from over a decade ago reached out to Peterson in January, Peterson wrote, and described his experience with Ted as a challenge “into liberation.”
“Professor McAllister was constantly challenging his students to pursue truth, but it should be remembered that he challenged himself in this pursuit first and foremost,” Peterson wrote.
Peterson wrote the response from those who knew Ted shows his influence will “live on for a very long time” through both SPP and the people he knew.
“Professor McAllister’s personal philosophy was to courageously challenge all ideologies in the relentless pursuit of truth,” Peterson wrote. “He grounded this in a deep and mature Christian faith, which provided the spiritual and intellectual freedom necessary to challenge fashionable intellectual commitments — particularly in the fields of politics and policy.”
Nate Barton, adjunct professor and Seaver (‘16) and SPP (’18) alumnus, as well as former Graphic News editor, said he took at least four courses with Ted while at Pepperdine, where Ted was a large influence on his life.
Ted’s style of teaching, Barton said, was to play devil’s advocate to provoke introspection and deliberation about “things that matter.”
“He had kind of a wrecking-ball style of pedagogy, and that often left me frustrated and unsettled and wondering what I’d gotten myself into,” Barton said. “But I think I’m better for it.”
Barton said the two had a “back and forth” and went out to lunch to talk about life, in addition to exchanging emails that reached nearly 3,000 words.
“I look back on the time [he] spent on those and the amount of investment that went into those and — I teach sometimes now — I can’t do that with every student,” Barton said. “That’s an impressive thing and a testament to his approach to pedagogy that he was willing to debate things on that level, even with a first-year grad student.”
Years later, Barton said he is still “fumbling around in the brambles of his mind.”
“He is a question asker, and he’s someone who, if you spent enough time with him, he never really leaves your head,” Barton said. “There’s a little Professor McAllister in my head that’s like, whenever I hear about something new, I’m like, he would say this about that.”
Ted was more than just a scholar, Barton said. He was committed to his family. When he entered a room, he made a conversation deeper. and made the conversations of the rooms he entered deeper.
Barton said he saw a side of Ted that “built bridges.”
“There’s a certain irony in the fact that the person that I disagreed with most was arguably my best and closest mentor at Pepperdine,” Barton said. “That alone is kind of a remarkable thing, and it says a lot more about him than it says about me.”
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