Pepperdine University is an independent, private, medium-sized university affiliated with the Churches of Christ. The university's 830-acre campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Malibu is the location for Seaver College, the School of Law, the Graduate School of Education and Psychology, the Graziadio School of Business and Management, and the School of Public Policy. Courses are taught in Malibu, at six graduate campuses in southern California, and at international campuses in Germany, England, Italy, China, Switzerland, and Argentina.
In February 1937, against the backdrop of the Great Depression, George Pepperdine founded the University as a Christian liberal arts college in the city of Los Angeles. On September 21, 1937, 167 new students from 22 different states and two other countries entered classes on a newly built campus on 34 acres (140,000 m2) at West 79th Street and South Vermont Avenue in the Vermont Knolls neighborhood of South Central, Los Angeles, referred to later as the Vermont Avenue campus. By April 6, 1938, George Pepperdine College was fully accredited by the Northwest Association.
Pepperdine had built a fortune founding and developing the Western Auto Supply Company which he started with a $5 investment, but his prosperity led to his greater ambition to discover "how humanity can be helped most with the means entrusted to [his] care. [He] consider it wrong to build up a great fortune and use it selfishly." Mr. Pepperdine voiced his two-fold objective for the college that bore his name, "First, we want to provide first-class, fully accredited academic training in the liberal arts...Secondly, we are especially dedicated to a greater goal—that of building in the student a Christ-like life, a love for the church, and a passion for the souls of mankind."
By the 1960s, the young college faced serious problems. The area around the Vermont Avenue campus developed issues with crime and urban decay; tensions also arose due to the Civil Rights Movement and attempts to circumvent it such as California Proposition 14, which challenged federal fair housing laws. The situation exploded in the 1965 Watts Riots. In 1969 activists in the Watts area threatened to burn down the campus; however, they were talked out of it after all-night negotiations by then-President M. Norvel Young. In addition, the Vermont Avenue campus was running out of room to expand.
In 1967, the school put forth a multi-campus idea that would move the undergraduate campus to an alternative location; a committee formed and looked at numerous locations, including sites in Valencia, Orange County, Ventura County and Westlake Village. Pepperdine favored the Westlake Village location until the Adamson-Rindge family, who owned hundreds of acres in Malibu, offered 138 acres (0.56 km2) of Malibu land; despite concerns over building costs on the mountainous site, the school decided to move forward based on its prime location and potential for raising donation. On April 13, 1971, the university broke ground to commence construction and in September 1972 the Malibu campus opened for student enrollment.