Kindy De Long, Religion Professor and associate dean of Seaver College, poses on Pepperdine’s main campus. De Long, who is a Seaver alum (’87), said God led her to teach scripture of the Bible as a career. Photo courtesy of Pepperdine University
Pepperdine’s Kindy De Long is the first woman to hold a tenured position in a religion department at any Church of Christ university. Through mentorship and following where God called her to be, De Long said she landed in a position at Pepperdine where she can help others grow intellectually and spiritually.
De Long (‘87) is a Blanche E. Seaver professor of Religion and associate dean of Seaver College, as well as an alum and member of the Church of Christ. Religion has always played a big part in De Long’s life, she said, but Pepperdine helped her strengthen her faith in a way that made her want to do the same for others.
“I didn’t set out to be first,” De Long said. “I just followed what I loved. I followed what I understood to be God’s calling in my life. I just pursued that interest and that passion and tried to respond to that call — not really even initially understanding that I was charting a new path.”
Growth at Pepperdine
De Long said she heard about Pepperdine through growing up in the Churches of Christ. Raised in San Diego, De Long said she knew she wanted to stay in California for college, and Pepperdine felt like the right fit for her.
During her undergraduate years at Seaver, De Long said she felt she grew immensely in both her faith and academically. The skills she took away from Pepperdine have followed her throughout all her endeavors in life, De Long said.
“I believe that there’s great power in creating a space where people can follow the facts and the truth and the evidence to where it leads,” De Long said. “To ask hard questions and to not be afraid of hard questions, but to do that in a context in which we’re nurturing people’s spirituality, we’re nurturing people as whole human beings and nurturing their journeys with God.”
Following graduation from Seaver, De Long said she felt inspired spiritually and went to Kenya as a ministry intern, where she began considering a career in ministry.
“I was mentored by someone at that time who really recommended that I get graduate education in theology or religion,” DeLong said.
When she returned to the U.S., De Long said she worked as an administrative assistant in business and a consultant in accounting before deciding to pursue a master’s degree in Divinity at Pepperdine.
After working as Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations and as an adjunct and visiting professor in Pepperdine’s Religion division, De Long said she realized she wanted to teach scripture for a career. Her family uprooted and moved to Indiana from Southern California so she could attend Notre Dame, where she earned her PhD in Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity in 2007, De Long said.
“I finished my degree in 2007, and right at that time, a position had opened up at Pepperdine in the New Testament,” De Long said. “In fact, the person who was retiring was the person who taught me in my college ‘Jesus the Christ’ class when I was a freshman — which is when I first fell in love with the studies that I ended up doing. So there was an interesting moment of coming full circle there.”
De Long said God pulled her back to Pepperdine, and she was excited to mentor and teach students the way her mentors taught her as a Seaver student.
“I really do value the people at Pepperdine and the community here and how it has shaped me,” De Long said. “I’ve been very grateful to have an opportunity to give back to a community that played a really important part in my own intellectual and spiritual development, as well as my general development as a human being.”
Now, De Long said she sees how students continue to help her develop her faith even as a Religion professor and administrator. De Long said she appreciates the way young minds help her evolve various ideals she has held throughout her life.
“I especially appreciate being around young people, because the students have changed about every six years — it’s a whole new generation of students,” De Long said. “It seems like they always bring new questions to the table. I love that that keeps my faith alive in the sense of always having to think about new ideas, and even if the idea isn’t new, to look at it in a new way.”
Impact on Students
De Long is alumna Nicole Son’s (’22) faculty mentor in research and personal role model, Son said. Son, who graduated with a religion minor, met De Long as a junior in a Zoom class called, “Women in the Early Church,” and immediately admired De Long’s way of teaching.
“I go to a little bit more of like a conservative church, and so it was cool being able to be in a class where you could really study the context of women in the Bible and study the context of some of those clobber passages that are very contentious about women’s roles,” Son said.
After learning De Long was one of the first women to get her master’s in divinity at Pepperdine, Son said she was inspired to pursue that path as well.
“In one of the comments on my paper she wrote about how I have promise as a biblical scholar, and I think that was something that I had never really heard before and so that really has stayed with me,” Son said.
Son said De Long’s comment changed her life and Son is now aiming to teach religion just like De Long does. Son said she is grateful God put De Long in her life and led her to realizing her vocation.
“It’s been really great just having her as a mentor in my life,” Son said.
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