Dr. William S.
Banowsky, the athletically built 41-year-old president of Pepperdine
University, gestures at a vista that includes school buildings, mountains,
stars, big-city lights and the Pacific Ocean. He is about to respond to a
question that has to do with hypocrisy—a practice that Pepperdine has lately
been accused of. Indeed, in recent years Pepperdine has been accused of many
things, including willfully turning itself into a sports factory at the expense
of loftier educational goals.
there," Banowsky says grandly. "The lights of Los Angeles and Malibu
against the ocean—absolutely spectacular, isn't it? I've been to a lot of
places. I was at the French Riviera last summer, but it can't compare with
this. Our land here goes from sea level to 1,700 feet. That development
property off to the right is divided into half-acre lots, and each lot goes for
between $60,000 and $100,000. This is the most beautiful place in the
As a minister in
the Church of Christ, a columnist for the
Los Angeles Herald Examiner and a
former Republican National Committeeman from California, Banowsky is well
versed in the meaning and usage of words. His reply, evasive as it may seem,
approaches policy at this posh Southern California university: when in doubt,
show them the campus.
It is true that
the school is visually stimulating to the point of making one forget hard
realities. Everything is clean and vivid. The students are the embodiment of
good taste. There are no campus guerrillas, no wild-eyed poets, no Indian
headbands, no unbuttoned shirts. "I would say the basic Pepperdine student
is a middle- to upper-middle-class white who is not too intellectual, owns his
own car and is sort of wanting to bust out," says student newspaper editor
Don Risolo. "The males are about six feet tall, tan, with blond hair and
mustaches. The girls are fashion-conscious, good-looking, chic and tend to wear
tight slacks." Because everyone lives, eats and socializes with everyone
else, and because most Pepperdine students are active in intramural and beach
sports, the appearance of the student body is one of decided healthiness.
The vision of
wholesomeness is somewhat deceptive, however, for in recent years Pepperdine
has been beset by a number of internal problems, which caused President
Banowsky to occasionally show people the campus rather than respond to their
There have been
problems with money (as a result of a vociferous protest, professors received a
small salary increase for 1976-77; the school was investigated by the State
Attorney General's office for alleged improper funding and shady financial
deals, but later cleared) and there has been criticism for "abandoning"
the original Los Angeles campus following the move to Malibu in 1972. There
have been complaints about the burgeoning size of the school ( Pepperdine's
enrollment at all schools, including a branch in Heidelberg, Germany and one in
Orange County, has risen from less than 3,000 a few years ago to 9,000 today)
and about its future as a Church of Christ-affiliated institution. And there
are those who are unhappy about the athletic escalation.
When he founded
the school in 1937, the late George Pepperdine, president of Western Auto
Supply Company, visualized nothing so grand. A millionaire and a devout member
of the Church of Christ, he wanted to establish a private liberal arts
"Christian college" loosely affiliated with his church. He created a
small, tacky campus in southwest Los Angeles, dotted with palm trees and a
thousand or so students, financially stable but largely uninspired
intellectually, esthetically or athletically.
But when the
university opened the campus at Malibu, the famed home of surfers and movie
stars, conditions changed. Now, perched like a white bird several hundred feet
above the Pacific Coast Highway and the surf, Pepperdine visually declares
itself ready for the big time. Academically, it is beginning to move that way.
Esthetically, it needs a few more trees. Athletically, it is there.
In the 4� years it
has been at Malibu, Pepperdine's success in sports has been phenomenal. Earlier
this month the men's volleyball team, with three U.S. National Team members,
finished third in the country. Last year the baseball team won its third
consecutive West Coast Athletic Conference crown, a dominance that ended with
the formation of the Southern California Baseball Association, a tougher
league. The new balance is reflected in Pepperdine's 18-24 record so far this
season. Four members of the 1976 team are now in the majors. This month the
tennis team won the WCAC title for the fifth straight time and is ranked eighth
in the nation. The 1975-76 basketball team, led by 6'10" Brazilian Marcos
Leite, had a 22-6 record, won the conference title and made it to the West
Regionals of the NCAA championship before losing to UCLA. (This season the
Waves were 13-13 and came in sixth in the conference.) Last fall the water polo
team, in its second season, was ranked seventh in the U.S.
The women's teams,
formed just two years ago, are also on the move. The volleyball team is
representative. Because of its progress in just one year, it did not
participate in the AIAW national small college tournament held at Pepperdine
last December. The women were so good they were allowed to play in the major
college tournament in Austin, Texas, in which they finished fourth.