Tag Archives: pepperdine history

Introducing the Alumni Memories digital collection

Bernice Pitts receiving her degree at GPC from President Tiner

Bernice Pitts receiving her degree at GPC from President Tiner

Pepperdine University Libraries is pleased to announce the launch of the Alumni Memories Collection, a new digital collection designed to honor the lives of our alumni and the special bond they’ve formed with Pepperdine University. The collection, freely accessible online, is composed of photographs, memorabilia, documents, scrapbooks, correspondence, and other materials donated to Pepperdine University Libraries by alumni of George Pepperdine College and Pepperdine University. The items in this collection, arranged by theme or donor, strive to capture the “Pepperdine experience” while providing a glimpse into the lives of the men and women that call Pepperdine their alma mater.

Christmas Card sent to the Pitts from M. Norvel Young and Family

Christmas Card sent to the Pitts from M. Norvel Young and Family

The flagship donation for the Alumni Memories Collection comes to us from Bernice M. (Carr) Pitts (’49), who provides numerous photographs and documents related to the life she shared with her husband, Carroll Pitts, Jr. (’54). Bernice and Carroll were the first African-American students to live in Normandie Village, the married student housing complex on the original Los Angeles campus of George Pepperdine College. In addition to photos of campus, the collection includes photos and clippings related to the Pitts family, Churches of Christ history in Southern California, and the Pitts’ ongoing relationship with fellow GPC alumnus Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.

Bernice and Carroll Pitts receive a commemorative certificate from L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn in 1982

Bernice and Carroll Pitts receive a commemorative certificate from L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn in 1982

Carroll Pitts, Jr. also earned an M.A. in Religion from Pepperdine College in 1969, producing his thesis A Critical Study of Civil Rights Practices, Attitudes and Responsibilities in Churches of Christ. Throughout his career, Carroll specialized in church administration and personal evangelism, serving as the Minister of the Normandie Church of Christ in Los Angeles for over two decades. Carroll and Bernice traveled widely in support of Christian education, conducting workshops and gospel meetings in places as diverse as South Africa, Egypt, Rome, London, and Haiti. Carroll also taught classes at the annual Pepperdine Bible Lectures in addition to teaching part-time in Pepperdine University’s Religion Division. He passed in 1987. We are very grateful to Bernice for this donation, which we hope will honor his memory and celebrate the achievements they made together through a life devoted to God and Christian education.

If you are an alumnus interested in donating materials to this collection, please contact our Archivist, Katie Richardson at (310) 506-4323 or Katie.Richardson@pepperdine.edu.

Guess who’s turning 40? Stauffer Chapel (slideshow)

Stauffer ChapelPepperdine University’s own “little chapel on the hill” turns 40 years old today. Stauffer Chapel was dedicated on November 4, 1973 about one year after Pepperdine’s Malibu campus opened its doors. Named for longtime Pepperdine supporter Beverly Stauffer, the chapel stands at the southern edge of campus overlooking the wide vista of the Pacific Ocean. Encased by 3,000 square feet of stained glass, Stauffer Chapel is the spiritual heart of campus, providing a sanctuary for worship, prayer, song, or quiet reflection.

Our chapel has played this role now for four decades. To mark this milestone, we’ve assembled a brief slideshow of archival photos from Stauffer Chapel’s history. All of these images can also be found in the Pepperdine Digital Collections. Enjoy.

Happy World Day for Audiovisual Heritage!

Here’s something that you may not have known: this Sunday, October 27th, is World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. And why should you care? While you may be hard pressed to find a Happy World Day for Audiovisual Heritage card at the Hallmark store, it speaks to a very important issue. Experts estimate that we have only 10 to 15 years left to digitize the wealth of content on analog audiovisual media—such as film, reel-to-reel tape, and even VHS—dating to the mid to late 20th century. This material constitutes an indispensable complement to the written record of our collective world history, and it is at risk of permanent loss due to the vulnerability of these media to decay, damage, and playback obsolescence.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage in 2005 in order to acknowledge the importance of audiovisual recordings and raise general awareness of the need for urgent measures to be taken to preserve them.

Pepperdine University Libraries has responded to this charge by partnering with the California Audiovisual Preservation Project, an initiative of the California Preservation Program that provides digitization and access services for historic California audiovisual recordings. So far, more than two dozen films, reel-to-reel tapes, and other vulnerable recordings in our Special Collections and University Archives have been digitized for preservation purposes through this collaboration. These recordings, such as this recently digitized speech by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the 1985 Pepperdine Law School Dinner, are now available in our Pepperdine Digital Collections.

Please visit the links above to discover how you can contribute to the preservation of the world’s audiovisual heritage.

Change at the Corner of Manchester and Vermont

A few months ago, the archives received a reference question asking us to search for photos and information about early landscaping at George Pepperdine College, at the campus located at 79th and Vermont in Los Angeles.  Hmm, tough…  While I searched the archives for pictures of landscaping and the Los Angeles campus, the first collection I went to was the George Pepperdine College records.  The collection was recently created by gathering materials from University Archives files (mostly papers and photographs) about Pepperdine between 1937 and 1972 not already divided into other collections.

What completely surprised me was a pile of photographs in the middle of an enormous stack — panoramic photographs of the intersection of Manchester Avenue and Vermont Avenue, just half a mile south of the site of the Los Angeles campus!  Best of all, there were five photographs, taken in 5-year intervals to document the changes at the intersection from 1920 to 1945.

Notice how the Clark Drug Store stays consistent in the early photographs (but gets a building upgrade!), and how there is even a Western Auto Supply Company store in the 1930 and 1940 photographs?  Take a closer look for yourself to see how the area changed.  (Click the images to make them larger, and click once again to see the full size image.)

To view these images in person, to view the George Pepperdine College records or other collections, or do research on any of these materials or other collections in the archives, please contact Katie Richardson, Archivist for Special Collections and University Archives, at katie.richardson@pepperdine.edu or (310) 506-4323.


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When the President came to Pepperdine: Today’s featured digital object

President Gerald Ford (right) greets actor John Wayne, with benefactor Richard Seaver (center)

On Founder’s Day, September 20, 1975, as Pepperdine University’s Malibu campus began its fourth year of activity, the university was honored by an official visit from the President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford. This was the first time a sitting President had visited Pepperdine, a milestone indicative of both the prestige the university had gained nationally and the ties its administration held with the Republican Party. The day was marked by two building dedications on the rapidly growing campus, both of which featured remarks by President Ford. A VIP brunch ceremony dedicated the Brock House, home to the university president, and this was followed by a public gathering of over 18,000 attendees to witness the dedication of the Firestone Fieldhouse, the campus’ athletics facility. Newly discovered and digitized, the audio recording of President Ford’s dedication of the Firestone Fieldhouse is now available online in our Historic Sound Recordings collection.

The 18,000 strong crowd at the Firestone Fieldhouse dedication, 1975

In addition to a twenty-minute speech by President Ford (on the important role of independent universities and free enterprise in the national education system), the recording also features the pomp and ritual particular to that era, including Pat Boone singing the national anthem and John Wayne leading a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Although it may not be apparent in this recording, President Ford’s visit to Pepperdine occurred during a period of heightened anxiety for both the president and the university. Just two weeks earlier, Squeaky Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, had attempted to assassinate President Ford in Sacramento (the gun failed to discharge). Security at Pepperdine was intense and there were no incidents; however, just two days later, Sara Jane Moore fired on the president in San Francisco in a second failed attempt. Meanwhile, four days before President Ford was to arrive at Pepperdine, M. Norvel Young, Chancellor of Pepperdine University, crashed his car into another vehicle on the Pacific Coast Highway, causing the death of two motorists. The shadow of this tragedy nearly derailed the Presidential visit, but the event continued as planned.

In addition to listening to the recording, you can also view photographs of the day’s events. Enjoy.

Introducing Historypin: Putting Pepperdine history on the map



Search for historic photos near you with the Historypin mobile app


Pepperdine University Libraries is pleased to announce the launch of its new channel with Historypin.com, a website and mobile application that allows the pinning of historical photographs, audio recordings, and moving image files to Google Maps. Would you like to see the Malibu hills in 1969 before the arrival of Pepperdine University, overlaid seamlessly with the current Google street view? Or perhaps you’d like to take a drive across the newly opened San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge in 1940? You can do all of these things—and more—in our new, interactive Historypin.com channel.

Historypin.com, developed by the nonprofit We Are What We Do in partnership with Google Maps, facilitates social mapping, in which individuals or institutions create a visual history of a particular spot on Earth through pinning digitized photographs (or other media) along with the stories that contextualize and enrich the history behind the images. Historypin calls this “fourth dimensional mapping,” a phenomenon that enables new ways for users to interact with historical photographs. For example, when you visit the Historypin website or mobile application, you can view the image, compare it with the current Google street view (when available), add your own stories to the image feed, use your smart phone to take a “Historypin Repeat” of the same scene, or link to the original image in our digital collections. In addition to searching or browsing images via the map, you can interact with materials in thematic collections or go on virtual walking tours.

Pepperdine University Libraries is utilizing Historypin to further the twin goals of its Special Collections and University Archives department: to preserve and disseminate the history of Pepperdine University and serve as the primary historical repository for the Malibu community. In addition to creating our own Historypin collections and tours, we are leveraging the unique strengths of Historypin to foster collaborations with other university departments and make new inroads into the Malibu community.



Student life 25 years ago today: Today’s featured digital object

In February of 1988, Pepperdine University’s alumni newspaper, The Pepperdine Voice, featured a photo spread titled “A Day in the Life of Pepperdine University.” The introductory text read:

“On Thursday, Jan. 7, 1988, seven photographers were deployed to scour all areas of campus to capture the daily activities of Pepperdine on film…What sort of day was Jan. 7? It was an ordinary day in Pepperdine life, and that is why it was chosen—to show the miracle of the mundane—students, faculty and staff at work, at play, in solitude and in action.”

The original prints and negatives produced for this project are now housed in our University Archives and were recently scanned for the University Archives Photograph (digital) Collection. Continuing our celebration of 40 years in Malibu, I encourage you to view this photographic time capsule of student life in the ‘80s. Technology and fashion may have changed, but I think you’ll agree that the “Waves spirit” captured in these photos is timeless.

View the slideshow, or explore these photos in our digital collections.

Happy New Year!

1971—Construction commences in Malibu: Today’s featured digital object

Continuing our series on the historical events that shaped Pepperdine University in Malibu—in honor of the Malibu campus’ 40th anniversary—we arrive at April 13, 1971. On this overcast, unusually chilly day, approximately 500 Pepperdine supporters gathered on the freshly leveled dirt building pads of the new Malibu campus to observe ceremonies initiating construction of the campus buildings. Billed as the “Ceremony to Commence Construction of Academic Complex on Pepperdine University’s Malibu campus,” the event saw the dedication of three core buildings: Payson Library, the Pendleton Learning Center, and the Huntsinger Academic Center.

The namesakes of these buildings were on hand to make remarks, and President William S. Banowsky spoke about Pepperdine’s educational philosophy, but the real attraction of the day was the keynote address by Wernher von Braun, Deputy Associate Administrator of NASA. Von Braun, a German rocket engineer brought into the fold of the US government following World War II, was one of the leading scientists behind the Apollo moon mission. His prominence following the first moon landing in 1969 contributed to the phrase “it’s not rocket science” to describe a simple task.

His appearance at the Commencement of Construction ceremony—less than two years after the moon landing—provided Pepperdine University with the perfect symbol of education, innovation, and achievement. It was an auspicious start to the buildings that now form the heart of Pepperdine University’s Seaver College in Malibu.

In our Pepperdine Digital Collections, you can listen to a recording of the speeches made that day, including the address by von Braun (he appears on Part 2 of the recording). You can also view a few of the archival photographs of the event. Enjoy.

Pepperdine Bible Lectures Finding Aid Online and Ready for Research

Another finding aid from Special Collections and University Archives is available on the Online Archive of California! The Pepperdine Bible Lectures collection (processed as part of the NHPRC project) is briefly described below.

The Pepperdine University Bible Lectures, coordinated by the Office of Church Relations, began in January 1943 and is an annual (sometimes semiannual) series of talks held at Pepperdine on religious and scriptural issues.  The Pepperdine University Bible Lectures collection includes paper materials (including programs, correspondence, and other items) and audio recordings taken during Pepperdine Bible Lectures held in Los Angeles (beginning in 1943) and Malibu (beginning in 1973).  Click here to view the finding aid.

If you are interested in seeing a program from any of the Bible Lectures, or listening to audio from lectures starting in 1972, consider making an appointment to see the collection! (Some years also have correspondence and other papers, but the bulk of the collection is programs and audio.) For more information about the collection, or to set up an appointment, please email specialcollections@pepperdine.edu.

Unfamiliar with this annual event?  Bible Lectures at Pepperdine is a long tradition — spring lectures have been held every year since 1943 (except for 1957) and additional summer lectures were also held for a few decades.  People from all over the United States and around the world travel to Pepperdine for a week to listen to a great number of speakers — sessions are packed in all day, including lectures during meals and large evening talks.  Entire families arrive to stay on campus, either living in the dorms or setting up mobile homes in campus parking lots.  Pie and coffee is served nightly to benefit student scholarships.  The Bible Lectures site is part of Pepperdine’s website, and includes information about the upcoming lectures, frequently asked questions, and a brief history of Bible Lectures.

1962 was celebrated at Bible Lectures as the centennial of the Restoration Movement; that year was also the last time George Pepperdine attended the lectures in March.  Mr. Pepperdine later died at the end of July, 1962.  Mr. Pepperdine can just barely be seen at the right side of a picture of the closing lecture (10,000 people attended!) on the Bible Lectures history page.

(The following images are from the Pepperdine Bible Lectures collection.  Click the pictures to view them larger.)


The cover and inside first two pages of the 1962 Bible Lectures program.


A large flyer (outside back and outside front, and inside left and right, respectively) advertises a charter flight from Nashville, Memphis and Dallas directly to Los Angeles to attend the Bible Lectures.  Another attractive prospect was the option to add excursions to Disneyland, Hollywood, and Knott’s Berry Farm!

Governor Reagan and Pepperdine’s Malibu “birth”: Today’s featured digital object

Bill Banowsky and Ronald Reagan with Pereira's sketch of Malibu campus, 1970

With the 40th anniversary of Pepperdine University in Malibu upon us, this entry is the first in a series dedicated to the historic events and hardworking individuals that made the vision of Pepperdine in Malibu a reality and shaped its presence in this seaside community. We begin with a “birth.” Nearly two years before construction crews laid the 40-foot-deep, steel-reinforced concrete foundations of Seaver College in 1971, an event known in Pepperdine lore as the “birth of a college” dinner cemented the new college’s philosophical (and financial) foundations. Officially known as the Pepperdine College at Malibu Master Plan Announcement Dinner, the “birth of a college” dinner brought together educators, politicians, and donors on the rainy evening of February 9, 1970 to reveal the architectural plans and educational vision of the new campus. With over 3,400 people in attendance, the capacity crowd in the Century Plaza hotel spilled into the nearby Beverly Hilton, and the featured speakers shuttled between the two locations.

The keynote speaker for the event was Ronald Reagan, then governor of California and a longtime friend of Pepperdine College. President Nixon was represented by his aid, Jeb Stuart Magruder, a name later associated with the Watergate scandal. William Pereira, an architect who—already famous at the time—would go on to design the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, presented his renderings of the Malibu campus buildings. Bill Banowsky, soon to be president of the new multi-campus Pepperdine University, gave a farsighted speech about liberal arts education. Pat Boone provided the musical entertainment.

By the 1960s, Pepperdine College had outgrown its location in southeastern Los Angeles, and social unrest in the area spurred the hunt for a new undergraduate campus. The “birth of a college” dinner marked a pivot point in Pepperdine’s history. The undergraduate campus was reborn in Malibu and the original “urban campus” became the graduate school for education and professional studies, with students serving as teachers in the local community. Pepperdine became a university.

Governor Reagan’s twenty-minute speech at the event lauds the importance of independent colleges and warns against an overemphasis on faculty research at the expense of actual teaching. His speech also invokes the milieu of 1970, with references ranging from student activism to the LA Rams. Reagan concludes:

“Let no one carelessly dismiss our obligation to the independent colleges and universities, which are so much a part of the educational tapestry of America. Without them, I promise you that tapestry would soon become a very simple fabric of great monotony and very little color.”

The “birth of a college” dinner is well documented in our Pepperdine Digital Collections. Over one hundred photographs capture the events of the evening and those in attendance. Put faces to the names that grace the buildings of Seaver College: Charles Payson, Fritz Huntsinger, Richard Scaife, Mildred Phillips, George Elkins, and, of course, Blanche Seaver. You can view selected highlights or, if you wish, the complete collection. You can also listen to Ronald Reagan’s speech or a recording of the entire event. Enjoy.