Tag Archives: pepperdine history

Reagan’s Redwood: Today’s featured digital object

Nancy and Ronald Reagan dedicate a redwood sapling at Pepperdine, 1973

If you’re admiring a tree during a walk around Pepperdine University’s Malibu campus, be sure to look down to avoid tripping over the small metal sign—usually affixed to a boulder—that bears the personal name of the tree or its donor. If you’ve ever wondered why so many of the trees around campus come with their own nametags etched in stone, there’s a simple answer. This land acquired by Pepperdine in 1968, although beautiful, was devoid of trees; the grassy meadow adorned with wild flowers receded into shrub-covered mountains.

To provide further shade and beauty to the newly built campus in 1972, Pepperdine launched its “Trees for Pepperdine-Malibu” campaign designed to attract arboreal transplants and sponsors for new saplings. One of the most famous donations was a large coral tree that required a decree from Governor Ronald Reagan to close down a portion of the Pacific Coast Highway for its overnight move from the Hollywood apartment complex where it resided.

On January 13, 1973, midway through the first year of classes in Malibu, Governor Reagan visited campus to donate a tree himself. In his first official visit to the Malibu campus, Governor Reagan, together with Nancy, planted a redwood sapling during a small ceremony that included guests ranging from Frank Shakespeare, the outgoing director of the United States Information Agency, to Jim Nabors, the actor best known for portraying Gomer Pyle on television. William S. Banowsky, Pepperdine’s new President, oversaw the event, which was followed by a reception in the Tyler Campus Center and a tour of Payson Library. The group also toured the Brock House, which at the time was not much more than a construction site.

Reagan's redwood tree today

Reagan’s tree was originally planted at the approximate spot now occupied by the Ahmanson Fine Arts Center courtyard. With the expansion of these facilities, the redwood was relocated to its current location, situated between Seaver Drive and the main Seaver parking lot.

You can browse a selection of highlights from Reagan’s tree dedication ceremony in the digital University Archives Photograph Collection.


George Pepperdine Collection Ready For Research

A new finding aid for the George Pepperdine family papers is now available on the Online Archive of California!  As part of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant awarded to the Pepperdine University Libraries’ department of Special Collections and University Archives, our goal is to organize and describe archival collections and ultimately have an online record for each collection.  It is fitting that during the 75th anniversary celebrations, one of the first collections we highlight is that of Pepperdine’s founder, George Pepperdine.

The George Pepperdine family papers include paper materials (such as correspondence, writings, and newspaper clippings), photographs, scrapbooks, films, and memorabilia, dating from 1907 to 2002. Individuals represented in the collection include George Pepperdine, Lena Rose Pepperdine (George’s first wife), Helen Louise Pepperdine (George’s second wife), George B. Pepperdine (George’s uncle), and his five children: Florence May Pepperdine Crossley, Esther Louise Pepperdine Thurston, Marilyn Pepperdine, George Pepperdine II, and Wendell Pepperdine.

Selected pictures and films from the collection have already been digitized and highlighted on the library’s news page by Kevin Miller, Librarian for Digital Curation and Publication.  These items make up the George Pepperdine Digital Collection.

The materials available online are only the beginning – many more interesting letters, scrapbooks, and other items from the Pepperdines’ lives are just waiting to be explored!  These items are available to view by visiting Special Collections and University Archives in Payson Library, and anyone may browse more detailed inventories in person.  For more information about the collection, please email specialcollections@pepperdine.edu.

Interested in learning more about the George Pepperdine Digital Collection?  Kevin Miller and Dr. David Baird will be speaking Thursday, February 23 at 4 p.m. in Payson Library’s Kresge Reading Room about the collection and about George Pepperdine.  For more information, visit the event page on the library’s events calendar.

Check out a few items from the physical collection that are not part of the digital collection!  (Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the images.)

George Pepperdine with two of his children, George II and Marilyn.

A poem written by George Pepperdine, titled “I Am Just a Little Leaf” (1928).

The cover of a 1970 catalog from Western Auto Supply Company, the company George started out of his home in 1909 — with some very fashionable hair and clothing choices!

The Malibu hills before Pepperdine: A before-and-after slideshow

“I looked and found the center of the Malibu miracle: tall rugged mountains meandering gracefully down across the verdant meadow and melting into the sea. Point Dume and the Santa Barbara Channel Islands sparkled in the distance. In the soft foreground were the 138 acres destined to be Pepperdine’s home.”

These are the words of former Pepperdine University President William S. Banowsky in his recent memoir The Malibu Miracle recalling his first impression of the virgin Malibu foothills now home to Pepperdine University. The year was 1968. By the fall of 1972, Pepperdine’s campus in Malibu opened its doors, beginning a new chapter for the university, now inextricably linked with the celebrated, but quiet coastal community.

The 75th anniversary of Pepperdine University, which we celebrate this year, contains within it a second milestone: the 40th anniversary of Pepperdine in Malibu. In recognition of this occasion, we’ve reached into the archives to find images of these familiar Malibu hills as President Banowsky saw them in 1968 before construction.

Follow this link to the University Archives digital photograph collection, and see if you can recognize the rugged landscapes and vistas captured by photographers on the Malibu property in the late 1960s.

Then check out this before-and-after slideshow to see the same photographic perspectives separated by four decades.


Rare film of George Pepperdine: Today’s featured digital object

A bit over three decades ago, Helen Pepperdine, wife of our institution’s founder, donated a small film canister to the Pepperdine University Archives. Browned with corrosion, the five-inch canister contained a short reel of 16mm black and white film. Handwritten on the white leader tape was the simple description: “Mr. Pepperdine, 1951.” Boxed away for years, the film came to light once again during our preparations for Pepperdine University’s 75th anniversary. Our interest piqued, we digitized the film for preservation purposes, unveiling the contents of the film for the first time in decades.

The film turned out to be a brief promotional film for Pepperdine College produced in 1951. The film centers on a two-minute speech by George Pepperdine that outlines his Christian vision for the students at the college, which he had founded fourteen years earlier. The film begins with a shot of Pepperdine standing on the roof of the Auditorium, surveying the Administration Building and central fountain of the Los Angeles campus. Due to the degradation of the original audio, we’ve added subtitles to help clarify the words of Pepperdine’s speech.

Audiovisual recordings of George Pepperdine speaking are very rare, so we’re pleased to share this little gem with the Pepperdine community. Most of us are familiar with Pepperdine’s dedicatory address from 1937 (available only in print). This little film is something of a sequel, distilled to the essence, and delivered in his own voice. Enjoy.

Click here to view Mr. Pepperdine.

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.

“Christmas in America”: Today’s featured digital object

Detail of poster advertising the First Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony

On December first, the Pepperdine community once again launched the holiday season with a Christmas dinner and tree lighting ceremony on Joslyn Plaza. Over the years, the tree lighting ceremony has shifted locations around Seaver College, as this annual tradition receives periodic renewal. On November 29, 1980, an event billing itself as the “First Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony” brought over 200 observers from the Malibu community. The event centered on the lighting of a 25 foot Deodar Cedar recently donated by the Adamson family in conjunction with the Malibu Optimist Club. The Adamson family, important Malibu landowners, had donated the land for Seaver College back in 1968 and remained closely tied to the university. The name of the tree was “Christmas in America.”

The lighting ceremony included speeches, the singing of Christmas carols, and Santa Claus (courtesy of the Optimist Club), who handed out candy canes to the children at the event. This tree, which, when lit at night, was visible from the Pacific Coast Highway, retained its role as Pepperdine’s Christmas tree for sometime afterward. You can see photos from this inaugural tree lighting in our University Archives Photograph collection.

Christmas in America, 1980

Visitors to Pepperdine University’s Malibu campus can make their way to the northeast corner of the Phillips Theme Tower parking lot where “Christmas in America” still stands, although unadorned. The dedicatory plaque, still affixed to a nearby boulder, reads: “Presented to the community of Malibu in the spirit of peace and goodwill towards all, that fellowship and brotherly love be always in our hearts.”

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from Pepperdine Digital Collections!

Pepperdine Library releases new George Pepperdine digital collection

Pepperdine University Libraries is pleased to announce the release of the George Pepperdine Collection, the latest entry among its growing Pepperdine Digital Collections. Fully digitized and searchable online, the George Pepperdine Collection features rare and unique materials—including photographs, writings, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, collectables, and home movies—from the personal and professional life of this notable Los Angeles philanthropist and founder of Pepperdine University. George Pepperdine (1886-1962), who made his fortune as the entrepreneur behind Western Auto Supply Agency, was inspired by his deep Christian faith to reinvest his wealth in charitable activities, including the university, which he founded as George Pepperdine College in 1937. Drawing from select items in the Pepperdine University Libraries Special Collections and University Archives collection George Pepperdine Family Papers, this digital collection chronicles this history through primary source materials in a variety of media. The collection also sheds light on the personal life of George Pepperdine, particularly his family life with Helen Louise Pepperdine (1903-1990) and their children. Click here to view the collection.

Designed to coincide with Pepperdine University’s 75th anniversary celebrations, it is our hope that the George Pepperdine Collection will serve to illuminate the man at the center of this history and provide a glimpse into the personal journey that led to the founding of our university. Pepperdine departments involved with anniversary publications or events are particularly encouraged to utilize this collection. And remember, the items currently highlighted in this collection represent only a fraction of the much larger George Pepperdine archival collection available in Special Collections and University Archives. Enjoy.

Special Collections Hosts GPC Alumni Panel

Three George Pepperdine College alumni joined the Special Collections and Archives during Waves Weekend for a panel discussion about student life at Pepperdine in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The event was held in Payson Library and attracted a crowd of other George Pepperdine College alumni as well as current students interested in hearing more about the experiences of their fellow Waves from years past.

The featured alumni included Allie (Evans) Tegner (’47), Carol (Hennessey) Carlson (’58), and Charles “Chuck” Johnson (’61). Pepperdine senior, Mimi Rothfus, moderated the discussion. Panelists reminisced about life in the dorms, what they did for fun, and their favorite professors and administrators. Allie Tegner shared memories of what it was like to be a Pepperdine student during World War 2.

The discussion was complemented by images from Pepperdine yearbooks and photographs, which can be found online in the Pepperdine Digital Collections. The Seaver College and George Pepperdine College Alumni Affairs office co-hosted the event with the Special Collections and Archives. You can see more photos of the event on the Libraries’ Facebook page.

For more information, please contact Melissa Nykanen at melissa.nykanen@pepperdine.edu or at (310) 506-4434. You

Top Photo: Panelists (L to R) Allie Tegner, Carol Carlson, and Chuck Johnson.
Bottom Photo: Allie Tegner and other Pepperdine students with soldiers from Fort Ross, circa 1945. Photo from the University Archives Photograph Collection,   Pepperdine University Libraries Special Collections and Archives.

Pepperdine Participates in LA Archives Bazaar

Pepperdine University Libraries Special Collections and Archives participated in the 6th annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar, held at USC earlier this month. Pepperdine joined more than 80 archives in the event, which brings Los Angeles history alive through displays, panel discussions, lectures, and film screenings. Other archives that were represented included UCLA Special Collections, the Autry National Center of the American West, and the Japanese American National Museum.

Approximately 1,000 visitors, including scholarly researchers, journalists, history buffs, and others interested in Los Angeles history, browsed the exhibit hall and attended events throughout the day. The Pepperdine booth featured the historic Pepperdine video, 21 Years, as well as books and images from the Malibu Historical Collection and the University Archives. Visitors to the booth recalled the days when Pepperdine was located in South Central Los Angeles and reminisced about early surfing culture in Malibu. Many visitors learned about archival materials at Pepperdine that may enhance their research projects.

The Los Angeles Archives Bazaar is organized by L.A. as Subject, a research alliance dedicated to preserving and improving access to the raw material of Los Angeles history. Pepperdine is one of more than 230 collections represented in the L.A. as Subject online directory, which allows researchers to identify and access archival materials related to Los Angeles.

For more information about Los Angeles history in the Special Collections and Archives at Pepperdine, please contact Melissa Nykanen at melissa.nykanen@pepperdine.edu or at (310) 506-4434.

Western Day: Today’s featured digital object

Student traditions at Pepperdine University have varied over the years, often reflecting the social trends of society at large. Given its relatively small size, Pepperdine has always cultivated a tight student community enthusiastic about social activities, trends, and traditions. The history of student life at Pepperdine is, therefore, also a study of U.S. popular culture and the milieu from which it arose.

Student dressed for Western Day in 1968

During its heyday on its southwestern Los Angeles campus, Pepperdine College enjoyed several annual all-school events organized by the student-run Social Committee, including the All-School Picnic, Homecoming, the Christmas Party, and the Luau. Between 1950 and 1969, one of the most anticipated all-school events was Western Day, for which students, faculty, and alumni would come to school dressed like frontiersmen, homesteaders, cowboys, and (yes) Indians. Classes would end early and the campus lawn would be transformed into the Wild West. In this photo, student Zak Johnson shows off his prize-winning Native American attire during the 1968 Western Day.

Activities centered on eating, entertainment, and sport, including barbeque, cowboy singing, and donkey races. Students that showed up in “eastern” dress (say, a jacket and tie) risked ending up in a makeshift “Wave City Jail.” Celebrity appearances included Chuck Connors from TV’s The Rifleman. The fun of Western Day was indeed inspired by the popular Westerns of cinema and television, and, like that genre, declined in the late 1960s, not surviving Pepperdine’s move to Malibu. Click here to see more photos from Western Day at Pepperdine College.