Tag Archives: Faith

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.

Christmas Illumination from the Saint John’s Bible on Display in Payson

The new Saint John’s Bible display in the Payson Library lobby is currently featuring an illumination of a nativity scene, from the first page of the book of Luke. The nativity scene shows a manger surrounded by animals in front, Mary and Joseph to the right, and the shepherds and townspeople on the left. A beam of light connects the manger upwards towards heaven. The angels intersect this beam to form a gold cross, reminding us that the reason for Christ’s birth was to be fulfilled with the crucifixion and resurrection. You can see the illumination online here, or visit Payson Library to see it in person.

The Saint John’s Bible is a work of sacred art that unites an ancient Christian tradition with the technology and vision of today, illuminating the Word of God for a new millennium. In 1998, Saint John’s Abbey and University commissioned renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson to produce the hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible. The Heritage Edition, on display in Payson Library, is a fine-art reproduction of the original with the mission of igniting the spiritual imagination of people on all faith journeys. Pepperdine University Libraries embraced this mission by acquiring this Bible for the University in honor of its 75th anniversary. One volume will remain on display in the Payson Library lobby, while the others are available for viewing in Special Collections. Please contact Melissa Nykanen at (310) 506-4434 or at melissa.nykanen@pepperdine.edu for more information.

Rare Martin Luther King, Jr. recording unearthed in University Archives—Listen online

In honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Pepperdine University Libraries is pleased to make available this rare audio recording of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking in Los Angeles on the moral imperative of civil rights in 1964. Recently digitized, the complete recording is now available for online listening in our Historic Sound Recordings digital collection.

Dr. King delivered this forty-minute speech as the keynote speaker of “Religious Witness for Human Dignity,” a multi-faith event held at the Los Angeles Coliseum on May 31, 1964. Dr. King’s speech passionately and persuasively takes on the issues of race relations and human dignity, touching on topics of segregation, poverty, civil rights, and non-violent resistance. He evokes the memory of the late John F. Kennedy while urging for the quick passage of the Civil Rights Act, and his speech is immediately followed by a mass performance of the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”

Dr. King is briefly introduced by the Rev. Marvin T. Robinson, pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church of Pasadena, California, and President of the Western Christian Leadership Conference. The event, attended by approximately 15,000 people, was cosponsored by Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish organizations.

This recording captures Dr. King at a critical moment in American history and his own evolution as a public figure. This speech comes nine months after his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and about four months before he received the Nobel Peace Prize. The Civil Rights Act, stalled in the Senate by a filibuster, would be signed into law a month later on July 2.

The Special Collections and University Archives department of Pepperdine University Libraries came into possession of the nondescript reel of tape containing this historic speech by way of Fred Casmir, a former Communications professor. Dr. Casmir had apparently acquired the recording for use in his classes, and it arrived to us in a large box, hidden among more mundane audiovisual materials. It is our great honor to share this recording with the world and contribute another small piece to the enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Click here to listen online.

Borders of Faith: Interfaith Dialogue

Two were Los Angeles natives, representing different generations:  Rabbi Don Singer grew up on the West Side, attending grammar school during World War II.  Imam Suhail Hasan Mulla was a Valley guy, a surfer, who drove past Pepperdine hundreds of times, but had not set foot on campus until Wednesday, March 21.

The other two came from opposite sides of the earth:  Rich Little grew up in Brisbane, Australia.  Srdjan Stakic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and lived there until he was eighteen and war broke out.

All four came together to have an interfaith dialogue, an exchange with multiple strands of faiths represented.  The variety of denominations represented began with Srdjan’s story.  He grew up in Belgrade, the son of atheists, who told him, once war broke out, “If anyone asks you, we are Orthodox Christians.”  Srdjan left Yugoslavia for America, where he lived for two years with a Mormon family, attending a Church of Latter Day Saints for two years.   He did not become a Mormon, but he came to love and admire the family he lived with, and next week will attend a wedding of one of their children.   Since that time he has earned a doctoral degree from Columbia University and has traveled the world, working for the United Nations.  He has mediated between cultures in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and believes the basis of interfaith dialogue is rooted in respect.

Respect.  What all four shared was a conviction that respecting your neighbor’s faith — allowing someone to hold a belief system that is different from yours, but honoring their right to do so — is fundamental to the concept of religion.  As I listened to their stories, it seemed there was something inherently American – in the best and highest sense – about all of them.  Suhail Mulla’s parents emigrated from India.  He grew up in Los Angeles, baffling people with his ethnicity:  “I would get taken for an African-American; some people thought I was Latino; but I was accepted.”  Srdjan’s parents ultimately moved to America.  His father and mother were both academics in Yugoslavia, college professors – but in America it was Srdjan who initially got his father a job:  washing dishes in the restaurant where Srdjan waited tables.  And yet, after a period of time, his mother was hired to teach at a college in Arkansas, and his father resumed his academic career, too.  America, with its malleable borders of possibility, remains the place where transformation is possible.

Rich Little came to America from Australia, moved to Arkansas, then Chicago, then Malibu.  And Don Singer was born in Los Angeles and still lives here.  (But he was the one who had just returned from a six-week trip to Israel, a trip which filled him with hope for the future.)

Don read from Martin Buber:

“The primary word I-Thou can be spoken only with the whole being. Concentration and fusion into the whole being can never take place through my agency, nor can it ever take place without me. I become through my relation to the Thou; and as I become the I, I say Thou. All real living is meeting.”

And Rich Little closed with a spirited defense of the value of reaching across religious boundaries, and embracing each other for our encompassing humanity.

Do the Thing Before You: Ambassador Tony Hall at “Borders of Faith”

Posted on behalf of Ken LaZebnik.

I sat around a table in the Payson Library’s Surfboard Room with Tony Hall and some participants of the “Borders of Faith” symposium.  Tony leaned back, and with a look of genuine longing in his eyes, said, “If just one American president made ending hunger in America his – or her – number one priority, we could do it.  I could sit down in a week and draw up what we need to do.”  He shook his head.  “It hasn’t happened yet.”

He had just spoken in Stauffer Chapel about world hunger, about his years in Congress, about his Christian faith and how it informs his actions.  Tony Hall served in Congress for 24 years, (as a Democratic representative from Ohio), and has been a leading advocate for hunger relief programs around the world.  George W. Bush appointed him United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, and Hall currently serves as the director of the Alliance to End Hunger.

But Tony Hall began his speech with an exhortation that did not come from the political arena, but rather from one of his visits with Mother Teresa.  They were in Calcutta, amidst the overwhelming hunger and poverty there.  He remembers that she took one desperately ill man off the street, took him to the hospice she ran, hugged him, fed him, tended to him.  He knew that there were tens of thousands of other men, women and children in the streets of Calcutta, who were all hungry, who were all desperately ill.  “What,” he asked Mother Teresa, “what can we do in the face of this?”  She replied, “Do the thing before you.”  Tony Hall asked of his audience to keep that in mind.  Do the thing before you.  If each American did the right thing, gave the assistance to the person right before him or her, the world would improve in 300 million ways.

He spoke of his time working on a Middle East peace initiative.  It was really an interfaith group, that worked on building relationships with the top Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders in Israel and Palestine.  It was put together by Condoleezza Rice, and Tony felt they made real progress in developing relationships with these important figures.  For, as he noted, “The religious leaders of the Middle East can’t bring peace – but you can’t have peace without them.”  Sadly, the initiative was not continued by George Mitchell and the Obama administration.

The Alliance to End Hunger is breaking new ground, with programs in three African nations that attempt to help stakeholders in agriculture learn how to work within the governmental structures to advocate for themselves.  It is growing capacity from the ground up.

Ambassador Hall launched “Borders of Faith” with a call to moral action.  He is a plain spoken man, a man who does not move through theatrics, but rather through the steadfast and quiet Midwestern manner that is weighted with integrity.  Let us all vow to “do the thing before you.”  We might just change the world.

Ken LaZebnik
Director of Public Affairs
Pepperdine University Libraries

“Borders of Faith” Opens Today: How It All Began

Posted on behalf of Ken LaZebnik.

My son is a cadet at West Point.  I can assure you he is the only student there who is the child of a screenwriter and an actress.  This odd bit of personal history informs the origins of the “Borders of Faith” symposium, which opens today with a keynote address by Ambassador Tony P. Hall.  (4 pm, Stauffer Chapel.  Don’t miss it.)

When Jack entered the United States Military Academy almost three years ago, the first thing my wife and I noted was that we knew nothing about the military.  Both of our fathers had served in World War II, but neither of us had any direct experience with the Army (or Navy, or Air Force or Marines).  With the advent of an all-volunteer Army, the gap between the armed forces and the civilian world of America is vast.

I quickly learned that the stereotypes I carried with me – reductions oddly enough planted in my mind by my own industry – were far from true.  I assumed that when I met a soldier returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, I would encounter some form of dysfunction:  A man or woman who was troubled, broken in either mind or body.  The officers I encountered were just the opposite.  They were positive, they were energetic, they were humorous.  A sense of humor has always seemed the best thermometer of sanity, and these men and women were grounded, sane, sharply observant, and funny.

I became passionate about telling their story.  When I started working at Pepperdine over a year ago, I was quickly impressed with this school’s commitment to exploring issues of faith in a deep and profound way.  And I had the realization that the issue of how faith impacts American policies in the Middle and Near East is rarely explored.  I felt multiple gaps in information and understanding:  The gap between the civilian world and the military world; and the gap between understanding America’s foreign policy and grasping how our shared faiths impact it.

“Borders of Faith” became an attempt to close those gaps, if even in a small way.  I found wonderful partners in The Glazer Institute and The Nootbaar Institute.  The Provost’s Office offered extraordinary support.  And, of course, the leadership of Pepperdine University’s Libraries – Dean Mark Roosa – was extraordinary.

And so now, a year in the making, we finally begin.  We are honored to have Ambassador Tony P. Hall open the symposium with a keynote address.  Within two years, it is completely possible my son will find himself in Afghanistan – or elsewhere in the world as an American confronting a culture grounded in a faith different than his own – and my hope is that this symposium can shed some light on how we can bridge understanding to create peace.  Which, in the same counterintuitive way that produced a soldier from a writer and an actress, is what I know soldiers across the world yearn for.

Ken LaZebnik
Director of Public Affairs
Pepperdine University Libraries