Tag Archives: dedications

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.

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.