Pepperdine changes name to honor donor

Pepperdine University School of Law is the latest law school to change its name in honor of a donor. The Malibu, Calif., school will now be known as the Rick J. Caruso School of Law.

He and his wife, Tina, gave $50 million.

The 1983 Pepperdine law grad is a business innovator, civic leader and philanthropist, according to the school. The donation — made through the Caruso Family Foundation — will expand educational access to exceptional, historically underserved student populations, the school said in a statement.

“The lack of affordable education in our nation and the student debt crisis is not only inhibiting underprivileged students from gaining equal opportunity to education, but also discouraging potential students from exploring careers in public service, roles that have a critical impact on society,” Caruso said.

“My sincere hope is that this gift will be one of the first steps towards reducing the barrier to entry for these students and will inspire the next generation of public servants.”

The law school, which is part of a Christian university, was founded in 1969 and will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary. The Caruso family has helped the school through a number of initiatives over the years.

For instance, it established the Caruso Family Loan Forgiveness Fund for graduates who have careers in public service. To date, 70 students have received financial support. This latest gift will expand the loan forgiveness program.

The number of schools that have changed their names to honor large donors continues to rise and is now at nearly 24. The largest reported donation was to The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. In 1999, it received $135 million from Rogers, an attorney and media pioneer, who died in 2014.

The Caruso gift is among the largest of the gifts that have been disclosed. Only two other schools — Northwestern and Chapman — got larger gifts. The Caruso gift is equal to the one that Drexel got in 2014.

Chicago-based Northwestern is now known as the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, in honor of J.B. Pritzker, who gave the school $100 million. The venture capitalist is now governor of Illinois.

Chapman, based in Orange, Calif., received a $55 million gift from Dale E. Fowler and is now named in his honor. Fowler is an industrial property developer.

Philadelphia-based Drexel is named after Thomas R. Kline, an attorney who specializes in personal injury cases.

These gifts — while widely celebrated by the schools — can cause controversy, though. In 2018, the University of Alabama School of Law changed its name to honor Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr., who pledged $26.5 million.

But the relationship between the school and Florida developer soured. The school gave back the money and stripped his name from its buildings.


(Pictured: Rick and Tina Caruso)