Saturday, March 25, 2023
Pepperdine Caruso Law Celebrates $50 Million Naming Gift At Annual Dinner With President George W. Bush
We had planned to celebrate our October 2019 $50 million naming gift (more here) at our 50th anniversary law school dinner in March 2020, but Covid forced several postponements. After waiting 1,082 days (!), over 1,000 members of our community gathered at the Beverly Hilton for a spectacular evening of celebration, faith, and humor.
3L Tyler Lisea opened the festivities and introduced Asha Madukar (JD '19), who sang a stirring rendition of How Great Thou Art, accompanied on the piano by her father Joel. 3L Ana Rodriguez, President of the Christian Legal Society, introduced Judge Consuelo Maria Callahan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who delivered a wonderful invocation. 1L Keanu Mayo led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by this video honoring Ken Starr, Dean of Pepperdine Caruso Law School from 2004-2010, who passed away on September 13, 2022:
Dinner was then served. Rick Caruso and I had the great honor of sitting next to President Bush — I am so glad the photographer captured this great photo of President Bush enjoying himself at the dinner:
Following the dinner, 1L Christian Parham introduced Pepperdine President Jim Gash (JD '93), who introduced President Bush and Rick Caruso for a fascinating 45-minute wide-ranging conversati0n replete with much laughter:
President Gash and I presented President Bush with a gift: a bomber jacket with the Pepperdine Caruso Law Seal (riffing off the iconic photo of President Bush in a bomber jacket with the Presidential Seal):
President Gash delivered his remarks, emphasizing how the gift from Rick and Tina Caruso to the law school had galvanized fundraising at the university, including the acquisition and renovation of Château d'Hauteville in Switzerland and the construction of The Mountain at Mullin Park on our Malibu campus.
I delivered my remarks, emphasizing how the Caruso gift has catapulted the law school forward in many ways, including recruiting students with the the highest entering credentials (164 median LSAT & 3.85 median UGPA), and launching them into full-credit jobs at the highest rate (92%), in our history. The gift enabled us to lower the average student debt of our graduates by $58,000 and to make 100% of the student loan payments of every graduate working in the public interest. We were able to recruit four outstanding tenure-track teachers and scholars who have already published in the nation's best law reviews — e.g., Harvard, Yale, Chicago, and Pennsylvania. And our average U.S. News ranking over the past four years is #49, the highest in our history.
The Caruso gift also has galvanized fundraising at the law school, including our 50 For 50 Campaign, which raised $3.5 million for student scholarships from 55 donors contributing $50,000 or more. I was pleased to be able to thank those of our thirty-two $1 million-plus donors who were in attendance at the dinner: Jeanette and Michael (JD '74) Bidart, Tina and Rick (JD '83) Caruso, Anna and Thomas Fessler (JD '83), Michelle (JD '89) and Mark ('88) Hiepler, Janet Kerr (JD '78), Rick Stack on behalf of the Hugh & Hazel Darling Foundation, and Judge Danny Weinstein.
Pepperdine Caruso Law's founding dean, Ron Phillips, closed the evening by presenting a gift to Rick and Tina Caruso, joined on stage by several students and alums representing the hundreds of students and alumni who have benefitted from the Caruso family’s generosity through the Caruso Scholarship Program and Caruso Loan Forgiveness Program.
The gift is a bronze bowl created by local artisan John Beaver, a Pepperdine graduate who has two pieces in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Pepperdine's athletic teams are known as The Waves, due to our spectacular location overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Dean Phillips closed the evening by saying:
The waves that encircle this bowl are inspired by the motion and rhythm of the Pacific Ocean waves, and Pepperdine believes they are a perfect symbol of the waves that Rick and Tina and the Caruso family have helped generate at Caruso School of Law—waves that will continue to gather momentum, rise, and uplift people for generations to come.
It was a memorable evening, perhaps foretold by the rainbow that appeared over our campus earlier that afternoon: