To capture a snapshot of student life during the fall semester, Pepperdine University Libraries photographed the Pepperdine Rock each day of the month during September (or at least as often as it was painted anew). As the semi-official mouthpiece of student organizations, the Rock changes appearance almost daily, so we thought we’d capture a month of student activities and creative expression for posterity. The photos will reside in the digital archive of our Special Collections, but you can enjoy the results of our experiment in this slideshow.
Do you recognize our beloved Pepperdine Rock? In the photograph above, which appears in the 1983 yearbook with the caption “Disco is DEAD, but the Rolling Stones live on,” the Rock is noticeably smaller and is paired with a tiny companion. In the intervening decades, the Rock has “grown” through countless coats of paint at the hands of Pepperdine University undergraduates to its current impressive size, and has emerged as one of the most persistent student traditions in Pepperdine’s history.
Situated in Adamson Plaza at a busy foot-traffic intersection, the Rock changes color and message several times a week during the academic year. Undercover of night, student groups paint the Rock anew, often surrounding it with elaborate decorations. In doing so, generations of Malibu campus students have carried on the Pepperdine College tradition of painting and decorating (and stealing) the fountain statue named Dolores that graced the heart of the old Los Angeles campus. The Rock, as Dolores’ descendent—although decidedly less anthropomorphic and a great deal harder to steal—occupies a similar place in the student experience in Malibu.
According to Pepperdine myth-history, the Rock traces its origins to one night in 1980 when members of the Sigma Epsilon fraternity hauled a 400-pound boulder to Adamson Plaza. The Rock, often called “Greek Rock,” quickly became the campus shorthand message board, providing a space for political messages, famous quotes, announcements, birthday greetings, event advertisements, and memorials (and, of course, astute commentaries on passing music fads). The tradition of building elaborate, float-like structures around the Rock began in the late 1980s. Around this time, the Rock was also (somehow) stolen and quickly returned.
You can follow the history of the Rock and other student traditions in our digitized Pepperdine Yearbook Collection, which is fully searchable and current up to 2006.