Tag Archives: history

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.

Exhibit of Colonial Documents Now Open

The Pepperdine University Libraries are proud to host “Becoming America: An Exhibition of Colonial Doucments.” The Colonial-era documents in the exhibit are on loan from Pepperdine alumnus and attorney Michael J. Marlatt (JD ’84). The materials on display span from 1686 to 1781 and represent the cultural, philosophical, and political atmosphere leading up to and during the Revolutionary War. Taken together, they show us an emerging nation in the process of becoming America. The collection revealed four themes that we have chosen to highlight in the exhibit.

Several documents tell the story of politics in every day life in the colonies. From an authorization to operate a tavern to a pay order for judges riding the circuit, these documents provide a snapshot of some of the ways that political decisions were made and implemented, as well as the ways in which the coming conflict influenced daily life. Several of the signatures on these documents are of individuals who went on to sign the Declaration of Independence or who played important roles in the development of the new nation.

Secondly, the exhibit examines some of the more prominent philosophical and political texts of the day that would have influenced the leaders of the movement towards independence. Alexander Pope, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, are all 18th-century writers that are highlighted in this section of the exhibit.

The third section of the exhibit explores the relationship between Great Britain and the colonies through several significant documents, beginning with the treaty of 1686 that established control over portions of North America by Great Britain and France. This section also includes two documents, written 10 years apart in 1765 and 1775, which express support for the colonies within England. Finally, a signature of King George III and a town meeting document from the same month as the Declaration of Independence reflect the changing nature of the relationship between the colonies and Great Britain.

Materials in the final section are from the Revolutionary War, and include the petition to King George III from 1774, as well as an English response to the Declaration of Independence. A pay order to authorize payment of troops and an example of the published journals of congress from October 1779 represent ongoing activities that occurred throughout the war. The exhibit closes with a portrait of George Washington, whose leadership during the war led to his role as the new nation’s first president.

These documents give us a sense of the political context in Great Britain and in the colonies that led to America becoming an independent nation. Through these words, handwritten and printed, we see our nation’s heritage in the strength and conviction of the leaders of the Revolution.

Please visit this exhibit on the main floor of Payson Library. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Melissa Nykanen at melissa.nykanen@pepperdine.edu or at (310) 506-4434.

New digital collection of historic sound recordings

Historic Sound Recordings

Pepperdine University Libraries is pleased to announce the release of our latest digital collection. The Historic Sound Recordings collection features streaming recordings of memorable speeches and significant events that chart the history of Pepperdine University and, more broadly, Southern California. The collection includes archival recordings ranging from political speeches and debates on morality, to musical performances and lectures on history. Prominent speakers include past Pepperdine presidents, including M. Norvel Young, William S. Banowsky, and Howard White, as well as national figures, such as Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, and singer Pat Boone. This initial launch features recordings of six different events, but the collection will grow over the coming months as we continue to digitize the aural history of Pepperdine. Check it out and enjoy.

New Historic Pepperdine Films digital collection

Pepperdine University Libraries is pleased to announce the release of the Historic Pepperdine Films digital collection, which features moving image materials produced by and about Pepperdine University throughout the history of the institution. Drawing from the University Archives audiovisual collection and the holdings of Integrated Marketing Communications, films in this collection range from home movies to professionally produced promotional films. What was student life at Pepperdine like in 1984? How about 1958? The answers lie in these fascinating archival treasures. The collection includes films of campus activities, sporting events, television shows, and community service programs. Included among the gems is a rare 1952 promotional film in which George Pepperdine himself lays out his vision for Christian education. Follow this link to visit the collection and view the films.

Roosevelt Letter Discovered During Internship

Madison Unell, a junior at Pepperdine, was an intern in the Special Collections and University Archives this past semester. Madison completed a preservation survey of our rare book collection, and made some interesting discoveries in the process. Here is her report:

This semester I had the opportunity to intern with the Payson Special Collections. My project was to perform a CALIPR (California Preservation Program) survey to better understand the preservation needs of the Rare Book collection. At first, the project was about collecting the data to be processed for grant money to better preserve the collection. As the semester went on, however, my project became so much more.

In my work, I began to find books in the collection that had not been picked up in years; books that had seemingly been forgotten behind their dusty covers, hidden away in a room most Pepperdine student do not even know exits. It is there that I discovered the most interesting of finds: a letter from Edith Kermit Roosevelt.

I found it one day when I was surveying a very normal looking green book with gold letters that read “Quentin Roosevelt: A Sketch with Letters.” It was a biography of the youngest son of President Theodore Roosevelt, who had been killed in aerial combat over France on Bastille Day, July 14, 1918. Quentin was only twenty-one years old.

In flipping open the book to find an imprint date, part of the needed data for the CALIPR survey, I noticed a curious sticker on the inside cover. It was a very elaborate design with the words “Ex Libris Sophie Beauveau Norris.” Thinking little of it, I continued to flip through the pages where I stumbled upon a piece of wrinkled paper that was stuck to a page in the middle of the book. Gently peeling the old parchment away from the page, I was able to decipher the words on the front of the letter. It simply read Mrs. Sophie Norris. Immediately connecting the letter and the sticker on the front page, I carefully opened the letter excited about what I might find.

Sure enough, the letter was from Edith Kermit Roosevelt, the mother of Quentin and second wife of Theodore. While the letter was extremely difficult to read, what I figured out was that Edith gave the book to Mrs. Norris with the letter inside. How the Pepperdine library came to acquire such a book with such a historic letter is unknown, but it is certainly a fascinating find.

Being a student of History, I am fascinated by research and the stories that are hidden in old books. This find was very exciting and I am interested to do more research about the letter and Mrs. Norris’s connection to the Roosevelts.

The book Madison described above can be found in the library catalog here: http://pepperdine.worldcat.org/oclc/1185205.

New digital collection: Anti-Communism Films of the Early 1960s

Pepperdine University Libraries is pleased to announce its latest digital collection, Anti-Communism Films of the Early 1960s. At the height of the Cold War, Pepperdine College sponsored a four-part, Hollywood-produced film series titled Crisis for Americans. Utilizing newsreel footage and scripted narration, each film sought to expose the threat of Soviet-based communism to capitalism and free societies around the globe. In turn, the films describe how communism preys on susceptible youth (Communist Accent on Youth, 1961), spreads through violent aggression (Communist Imperialism, 1962), and cloaks itself behind the discourse of “peaceful coexistence” (Communism and Coexistence, 1963). The fourth film, The Questions and the Answers (1965), argues for the necessity of congressional investigations that root out communist activities within the United States. Straddling the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis, these films offer an excellent example of the anti-communist discourse typical of this critical moment in Cold War history. All four films can now be viewed online alongside supplementary archival materials about the films, including internal memos, correspondence, scripts, and newspaper clippings. Enjoy.

Thanksgiving dish ideas from 1924: Today’s featured digital object

Art Nouveau style cover of Secrets of Charm magazine, 1924

Tucked away in the George Pepperdine Collection is a gem of a magazine—a single issue of Secrets of Charm, a short-lived, Los Angeles-based women’s monthly magazine from 1924. The magazine’s tagline is “Devoted to the woman who thinks,” and features in this issue include columns on society, health, relationships, child rearing, beauty tips, and a debate on the question “Can a woman with a career make a home?” There is also a profile of Lena Rose Pepperdine, George’s first wife, who died tragically of Psittacosis (“Parrot Fever”) in 1930.

Illustration from Secrets of Charm magazine

However, in the spirit of the season, we call your attention to the magazine’s center spread, which features “tempting dishes” and “varied recipes” for the Thanksgiving feast. The spread (on pages 8 and 9 of the digitized magazine) offer detailed descriptions and directions for such dishes as Roast Rabbit, Mashed Potato Stuffing, and Chestnut Dressing. There’s even an “Appetizing Menu for Vegetarians” that includes Mock Turkey, Jellied Cranberry Sauce, Creamed Turnips and Onions, and Green Tomato Mince Pie.

Click here to browse through Secrets of Charm and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Rose of Sharon: Today’s featured digital object

Rose of Sharon (zoom view)

The image to the right may appear at first glance otherworldly—abstract in its beauty; vibrant, yet still. It is, in actuality, a flower plucked by George Pepperdine from the banks of the Sea of Galilee in Palestine on March 26, 1928. Dried and pressed, the flower, labeled “Rose of Sherron”, appears here (digitally magnified) in a scrapbook of photos, postcards, and keepsakes assembled by Pepperdine following an around the world trip that he took by ship with his mother in spring of 1928. This scrapbook, along with numerous photographs, writings, newspaper clippings, collectables, and home movies, is now digitized and available in the new online George Pepperdine Collection.

George Pepperdine had a hobby of collecting, drying, and pressing flowers and other plants that held some beauty or special meaning. The same scrapbook contains botanical keepsakes from Cana, Jopa, Nazareth, Jericho, and the River Jordan. A simple leaf from an oleander shrub is revealed to have grown at the entrance to “Jesus’ tomb” at the foot of Mount Calvary.

Visiting the Biblical locations of Palestine clearly made a strong impression on Pepperdine, a deeply Christian man. As the ship sailed on across the Indian Ocean, he wrote to friends: “The most interesting of all is to reflect upon the birth-place of Christianity, its humble beginning among such common-place people, in such common-place surroundings. It recalls to mind the Saviour’s parable, The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which is indeed the least of all seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

Page from Pepperdine scrapbook, 1928

We invite you to leaf through this unique scrapbook and zoom in as close as you like to view the pressed leaves and flowers, rare postcards, and souvenir photographs. Taken as a whole, the scrapbook provides a snapshot of our world in the late 1920s. Even more, it reveals an important glimpse of George Pepperdine, the man, nearly a decade before founding the university that bears his name.

Betty Ford at Pepperdine: Today’s featured digital object

Betty Ford and Pearl Williams

As we say goodbye to Betty Ford, who passed away last Saturday, we remember her not just as the consummate first lady, but as a great friend of Pepperdine University. Mrs. Ford made two notable appearances at Pepperdine during her husband’s presidency. On May 19, 1975, at the height of her battle with breast cancer, Mrs. Ford made a special appearance at Pepperdine’s Foster Grandparents Day ceremony, which took place at the old Los Angeles campus. The ceremony honored 109 elderly volunteers in a federally sponsored, Pepperdine administered program that matched at-risk and developmentally challenged children with elder companions. In this photo, we see Mrs. Ford congratulating Pearl Williams, the oldest of the foster grandparents, who also celebrated her 106th birthday at the event.

Later that same year, on September 20, Betty Ford returned to Pepperdine University, this time to Malibu to accompany her husband’s dedication of the Brock House and the Firestone Fieldhouse. Notably, the great benefactor honored at this event, ambassador Leonard K. Firestone, would go on to provide the financial backing for the Betty Ford Center in 1982.

In honor of her memory, I invite you to view photographs of Betty Ford at these Pepperdine events in our University Archives digital photograph collection.

Gidget’s surfboard: Today’s featured digital object

There’s a certain corner of Payson Library, somewhere near the 19th century English literature, where the astute visitor will notice a scent in the air that seems out of place. Fiberglass and surfwax? Yes, somewhere up above in its second-floor sanctuary resides the John Mazza Collection of Historic Surfboards, a secret room populated by over thirty surfboards, the earliest of which are nearly 100 years old. A part of our Special Collections and University Archives’ Malibu Historical Collection, the surfboard display represents part of the cultural legacy of that famous coastal community.

Although the “surfboard room” (as it is informally known) can only be accessed during special occasions, you can see all of these surfboards up-close and from multiple angles in our John Mazza Historic Surfboard Collection online. One of these boards—born of balsa wood in 1951, standing 9 feet, 4 inches tall—found fame when Hollywood discovered surf culture. It’s none other than Gidget’s surfboard.

Originally a novel about his daughter’s coming-of-age in the Malibu surf, Frederick Kohner’s Gidget would do as much as the Beach Boys to popularize surfing. Picked up by Columbia Pictures in 1959, Gidget became Hollywood’s first surf film and many sequels followed, including a short-lived television series on ABC starring a young Sally Field. This surfboard was originally shaped by celebrated Southern California board-maker Dale Velzy as one of his “rope logo” balsa boards. In 1964, the board found its way onto the set of the surf film Ride the Wild Surf, where it received four coats of paint, a logo reading “Surfboards by Phil,” and was ridden by a character named Eskimo. The next year, Sally Field used the board in the Gidget television series. Field’s autograph, along with that of Dale Velzy and Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman (aka, the “real” Gidget), is visible on the board’s deck. The original Velzy logo has been exposed at the very base of the tail.