Gerald R. Ford photo

Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies at Pepperdine University, Malibu, California

September 20, 1975

Bill, Margaret,1 and all of you who have so generously come with your time and your enthusiasm and your dedication to this wonderful day here at Pepperdine:

1 William S. Banowsky, president of Pepperdine University, and Margaret Martin Brock, for whom the university president's new residence was named.

I thank you as well as Betty. I have known Margaret a good many years. I have known her many, many efforts in a broad spectrum. Of course, those of us who are Republicans knew that she has been a loyal, generous, dedicated Republican and she is sort of known by those of us outside of California as Mrs. Republican, and we thank you very, very much for that, Margaret.

But as Bill has said and all of you I am sure know, her interests are far broader than that in civic and community affairs. Her generosity is extremely well known. As she indicated, she has a very deep commitment to not only Pepperdine as an institution but to the students here at Pepperdine. And that covers, again, many, many things that she does that are not too well known. She has a little special fund that helps deserving and needy and fine students.

I am told that Margaret, on many occasions--to a civic function, to a community activity, wherever people come in from the outside--she will support it and make sure that the younger people participate. The emphasis on youth, I think, has helped to keep Margaret just as youthful and attractive as she is today.

This beautiful house is a great tribute to her real deep interest in Pepperdine, and I can't imagine a nicer couple and family than Bill and Gay and their four fine sons being the first occupants and establishing a great precedent as a family.

And may I just close because I am going to talk a little later and I don't want to preempt here what I might say down there.

But I have, of course, had an opportunity to look into what Pepperdine stands for. It stands for excellence in education and anything that is related to excellence-whether it is in the arts or in athletics, in business, professions, I wholeheartedly support--and Pepperdine, in the field of education, does represent that high standard.

And the 8,000-some students who attend here, some at this campus and some at the other campuses, are likewise getting the benefit of not only excellence but great leadership.

I thank you all very, very much for coming, and it is a pleasure to participate, Margaret, in these dedication ceremonies. And both Betty and I are delighted to see you again, and we thank you for your help to this great school.

Thank you very, very much.

[The President spoke at 11:07 a.m. at Brock House. Following his remarks, he proceeded to Firestone Fieldhouse for a meeting with student leaders and dedication ceremonies for the fieldhouse. The President spoke at 12:03 p.m. at the ceremonies as follows:]

Dr. Bill Banowsky, Ambassador and Mrs. Firestone, distinguished academic delegates, special guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Today, you have conferred upon me the honorary degree of doctor of laws and granted me the status of an honorary alumnus of Pepperdine University. Obviously, these honors are very deeply appreciated, and I am equally grateful for the especially warm welcome here in southern California.

Actually, I have been looking forward to visiting the campus here at Malibu. Some of you may know I like skiing and swimming, and here in Malibu one of the big things is surfing, which combines a little of both--skiing when you do it right and swimming when you do it wrong. [Laughter]

But I never realized how popular surfing really is until just before the program when I asked President Bill Banowsky how many minutes he wanted me to speak, and Bill just said, "Mr. President, hang ten." [Laughter]

Last May, when my wife Betty returned from her trip to this beautiful State, she gave me a very enthusiastic report on her visit to Pepperdine's inner city Los Angeles campus. And Pepperdine's rapid growth from a small college in southwest Los Angeles to a multicampus university has been a success story in the best Hollywood tradition.

I am impressed with your distinguished faculty, with your dynamic student body, and with your balanced budget of $35 million. [Laughter] Then again, coming from Washington, I am impressed with a balanced budget of any size. [Laughter]

Let me also add a very special word of praise for your president, Dr. Bill Banowsky. Bill's great, great capacity for leadership has been a guiding force in Pepperdine's phenomenal progress in pursuit of excellence. He is the man most responsible for this "Malibu miracle" campus. It represents a testament to his skill, his diligence, and I congratulate you personally, Bill.

Today, we gather to dedicate this most impressive structure, the Firestone Fieldhouse, made possible by the generosity and the commitment of two of my very good friends, Leonard and Nicki Firestone. I join with all of you in saluting these two outstanding Americans, in admiring this proud building, their fine gift to Pepperdine University.

As Dr. Bill Banowsky was reeling off all of the athletic accomplishments of Pepperdine's teams on the competitive field of athletics, I thought to myself there wasn't one single sport where I could qualify for the first time, even 50 years ago. [Laughter]

So, I thank you for the opportunity to participate in this ceremony because of my personal interest in competitive athletics, but also because Firestone Fieldhouse stands as a splendid centerpiece for this superb campus. It symbolizes the vitality, the exuberance, and the strength of Pepperdine students, indeed, the students throughout this country.

Pepperdine University is a symbol itself. It is an outstanding example of those voluntarily supported institutions which have contributed so much to America's greatness and to our country's progress. Such great universities as Paris, Oxford, and Padua--dating back to the Middle Ages--have a rich heritage as institutions of independent education. America proudly celebrates its 200th birthday next year, but we would have to reach back still another century to mark the founding of Harvard College in Massachusetts Bay Colony, or William and Mary in Virginia, or St. John's College in Maryland. Thirteen other great American universities were founded before the American Revolution, and all share in the distinguished traditions of private higher education.

Independent schools in the United States exemplify the commitment of their benefactors to the American free enterprise system and, in a sense, to freedom itself.

You know and I know that it is the vitality and the competition of free enterprise that made America great. It is the wealth of the free enterprise that has done so much to help underdeveloped nations throughout the world. And it is free enterprise that in the long run will do the most for the underdeveloped nations of the world and the disadvantaged people throughout this great world.

It is the strength of the free enterprise that has given the greatest challenge to communism and statism and every other dogma which would crush individual freedom.

The independent colleges and universities have played a very major role in America's history. They represent a sound investment in America's future. Thanks to the vision and dedication and commitment of private citizens and organizations, there are now more than 1,500 independent colleges and universities in America, with a combined enrollment of more than 2 million fortunate students.

Today, as in the past, these institutions serve as a great reservoir of national leadership in the arts, in the sciences, in law, medicine, religion, and in business, as well as in the government.

Twenty-four Presidents of the United States were educated in private colleges and universities in our country, as were 287 Members of the Congress--Senators, Representatives--serving in the present Congress today.

More than 40 percent of the board chairmen and presidents of the Nation's 100 largest corporations today were educated at independent institutions. The number of outstanding writers, musicians, judges, teachers, physicians, scientists, ministers, and scholars produced by these institutions is almost beyond counting.

My own background, as Dr. Banowsky indicated, included two experiences in higher education: one at the University of Michigan and the other at Yale University Law School; one public, the other private.

I value what I learned from both, and I am all for an open marketplace for ideas and learning experiences. Private institutions both complement on the one hand, and compete on the other, with public education in America. Millions of Americans have enjoyed the diversity of benefits this dual system has produced.

I believe that every American who has a desire to learn should be given the chance to learn. Today, California's independent 4-year colleges and universities have an outstanding record of providing such great opportunities.

They have enrolled, for example, a higher percentage of black students than any public sector of higher education in this State. Further, independent 4-year colleges rank very high in the percentage of Mexican-Americans enrolled, and they provide more students with more scholarships than any public segment of California education.

They have proven this point, which we should emphasize: They have proven by their own example that the road to quality higher education need not be a narrow one traveled only by a select few.

As Aristotle said centuries ago, "All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of political communities depends on the education of youth."

But today one segment of America's educational capacity is in serious trouble. The institutions of private education in the United States are being battered and buffeted in ways that may ultimately jeopardize their survival.

We should remember and never forget that the term "private education" is misleading, because these institutions, though privately endowed, serve important public functions, and at a great savings to the American taxpayer. We should remember that this is something that is too often forgotten. California, for example, now counts about 100 independent colleges and universities within its great borders. It is estimated that these institutions carry 30 percent of the State's postsecondary education workload. Each year they provide, with almost no cost to the taxpayer, more than $1 billion in educational research and related services in California alone.

In return, these institutions and their students received less than 3 percent of the total State funds spent for higher education in California. It is through the support of alumni and friends such as Leonard Firestone, Margaret Martin Brock, Frank Seaver, and so many others who have helped Pepperdine build this magnificent campus, that independent education survives and grows in California and throughout the United States. And we thank them all for it.

California's independent schools have amassed $2 1/2 billion in capital assets and in dollars. Each year they attract an additional $400 million from private nongovernmental sources. If these institutions should suddenly close, shifting the burden from private donors to public taxpayers, the tax load would be heavy indeed. American taxpayers and America as a whole would suffer the consequences. We must not allow this to happen.

In recent years the Congress has considered a number of proposals which would discourage private charitable contributions to these institutions. Fortunately, most have been rejected thus far. But there is a certain persistence in these proposals which must be constantly monitored and rebuffed. Today, let me repeat what I have said to many educators who have visited me in Washington: I approve, support, and encourage the principle of voluntary giving to help finance higher education. And I will oppose any legislative proposals which discourage such support, including those which would limit charitable tax deductions, disallow the full value of appreciated assets, or exclude the State tax deductions.

The Firestone Fieldhouse and literally thousands of other facilities which grace independent college campuses across America testify vividly and in concrete ways to the wisdom of those existing tax policies. These facilities will be built either with private capital or with taxpayers' money, but they must and they will be built, and I will do all that I can on a personal basis to encourage the use of private funds for the public good.

Today, we have all been a part of a proud and fulfilling moment in Pepperdine's history. Students, faculty, friends, and community have all joined together in this celebration of this achievement. It is a good feeling and one that should be experienced as often as possible.

Bill, is that a good suggestion? [Laughter]

In some circles it is considered very smart and very in to be cynical and somewhat disdainful of the basic motivations that have inspired and sustained mankind throughout the centuries. A love of family, a love of country, a love of labor, a love of learning, a love of God--these values are not outdated. And from the spirit that I feel is here today, I am sure that all of you agree most wholeheartedly.

I know from my many conversations with Bill Banowsky and others that this is the spirit of Pepperdine University, its founder, its faculty, and its students. It is a wonderful, worthy spirit--a spirit to which Daniel Webster gave expression when he wrote: "If we work upon marble, it will perish. If we work upon brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples, they will crumble into dust. But if we work upon men's immortal minds, if we imbue them with high principles, with the just fear of God and love of their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which no time can efface, and which will brighten to all eternity."

Thank you for letting me share this thought with you.

Gerald R. Ford, Remarks at Dedication Ceremonies at Pepperdine University, Malibu, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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