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Pepperdine Digital Collections featured item: Dolores!

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With this post, I’m launching a blog series designed to highlight some of the rare and unique digital objects (photographs, historical papers, monographs, student publications, films, etc.) that compose Pepperdine University Libraries’ digital collections. It is our mission to scour the best of our Special Collections and University Archives, digitize hidden materials, and make these fascinating gems available for research and/or pleasure online. My goal here is to pick just one of these digital discoveries to feature in a twice-monthly blog.

Doleres at night

Fountain statue Dolores at Pepperdine College

And where better to begin than Dolores? Long before Willie the Wave, the unofficial icon of the Pepperdine community took the form of a demure two-year-old girl carved in stone and placed atop the fountain that marked the heart of the old George Pepperdine College (GPC) campus in Los Angeles. Shortly after she appeared in 1941—four years after the founding of GPC—the students that gathered around the fountain to socialize between classes dubbed the statue “Dolores.” Although her name has multiple origin myths, I’m most partial to its derivation from “Dolor,” a mythological nymph that personifies sorrow (and possibly the official name of the statue). Still, this moniker seems oddly wistful given her calming, cherubic presence.

Over her nearly fifty-year history in the Pepperdine spotlight, the college grew and changed around her, and Dolores changed too. The flipside of the reverence bestowed upon her by the students was that she was also the focus of student rituals (decorating, dressing, or painting her, much like the Pepperdine Rock today) and pranks (she was stolen several times and occasionally damaged). In the photo I’ve chosen, she appears in her final form, beautifully lit at night amidst her waterworks.

After Seaver College opened in Malibu in 1972, Dolores remained on the Los Angeles campus (which continued to serve graduate students) before finally making the move to Malibu in 1982. She was given a place of honor in front of the Tyler Campus Center. Sometime in the late 1980s she disappeared once again. This time she did not return, and her era quietly came to an end. Visit the University Archives Photograph Collection to see more photos of Dolores from throughout her surprisingly active life.

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