A New Promise to Pepperdine

Pepperdine University President and CEO James A. Gash

Last week, white tents were seen on Pepperdine University campus in celebration of the inauguration of the university’s eighth president, James A. Gash. The Pepperdine law professor was formally introduced as the first alumnus to occupy the office of president on Wednesday, Sept. 25.

The audience included Pepperdine faculty, students, alumni and special guests including California State Senator Henry Stern, along with Gash’s family members in the front row.

“A presidential inauguration at Pepperdine is a rare and significant event,” said Michael E. Feltner, dean of Seaver College. “The true measure of the success of the Pepperdine president is in the success experienced by our graduates and how well they will serve the communities and the people they will engage throughout their lifetime.”

Dean of School of Public Policy Pete N. Peterson gave a brief history on Pepperdine University near the start of the event, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. A prayer was read by Helen E. Williams, dean of the graduate school of education and psychology.

“Today’s inauguration gives us the chance to do more than reflect on the awesome responsibilities of our next president,” Feltner added. “It also provides us an opportunity to look with excitement towards our further and celebrate the opportunities that awake president Gash in this great university that he will lead.”

Stern welcomed the audience and acknowledged leader, mentor and seventh president of Pepperdine, Andrew K. Benton.

“Andy has been a giant in these hills, has opened his arms and has made this university durable, lasting and I am more hopeful than ever for the passing of this torch that Pepperdine is in incredibly good hands with Gash and his family,” Stern said.

Representing the administration of Pepperdine, Paul L. Caron—a dean at Pepperdine Law School—congratulated Gash on being the eighth president of Pepperdine and acknowledged Gash’s dedication to remembering his students every semester.

“We are excited to have as our leader a fellow traveler, someone who knows firsthand, both the challenges and the opportunities of our work as faculty and administrators,” Caron said. 

Benton, Pepperdine’s longest serving president, handed Gash a bible that belonged to George Pepperdine, which was gifted to Benton upon his inauguration in 2001.

“The bible is worn, yet it is intact. I received this bible as a gift but I’ve always held it as a trust and treated it as a trust. I now entrust to you this direct tie to our founder, George Pepperdine,” Benton said. “May it help guide you and may God bless you every step of all the good that you will do.”

Sixth president David Davenport congratulated Gash and praised his work as a faculty member and former student of Pepperdine. 

Davenport, along with Benton and Board of Regents Chair Dee Anna Smith, presented Gash with the presidential medallion signifying the formal action in executive leadership.

“I pledge that you will be in the constant prayers as you guide our university in service to God and to human kind,” Smith said.

First Lady Joline M. Gash reflected on Gash’s dedication to providing academic excellence to students at Pepperdine.

“Our family lives and breathes Pepperdine; it has for three decades,” she said. “The next president of Pepperdine believes in promises. He’s a man of deep faith and intellect and impeccable integrity, and it is my life’s great honor to walk beside him and join my voice with his as we grow this great idea Pepperdine as a team.”

The audience stood and applauded when Joline welcomed her husband, James, to the podium.

“I’m committed to continuing our legacy of attracting and retaining a world class faculty,” Gash said. “Our first task is to strengthen our students’ minds. We need bright minds that can stand up to wrong ideas and build people up, and build communities up, and build nations up.”

“The world needs more Pepperdine,” he continued. “Today is not about me; it’s about our students. Send our students with faith, courage and creativity. Indeed, as a Pepperdine person, I am compelled to get my hands dirty and work for a better world. I believe that what the world needs most, is what we do best, the world needs leaders, and Pepperdine produces leaders.”

“We need to strengthen student intellectually, spiritually and relationally, so that they have the courage to lead and serve with global influence,” Gash concluded. “May God bless us, may God protect us, may God pour out his favor on Pepperdine as we ascend together.”