If you’re admiring a tree during a walk around Pepperdine University’s Malibu campus, be sure to look down to avoid tripping over the small metal sign—usually affixed to a boulder—that bears the personal name of the tree or its donor. If you’ve ever wondered why so many of the trees around campus come with their own nametags etched in stone, there’s a simple answer. This land acquired by Pepperdine in 1968, although beautiful, was devoid of trees; the grassy meadow adorned with wild flowers receded into shrub-covered mountains.
To provide further shade and beauty to the newly built campus in 1972, Pepperdine launched its “Trees for Pepperdine-Malibu” campaign designed to attract arboreal transplants and sponsors for new saplings. One of the most famous donations was a large coral tree that required a decree from Governor Ronald Reagan to close down a portion of the Pacific Coast Highway for its overnight move from the Hollywood apartment complex where it resided.
On January 13, 1973, midway through the first year of classes in Malibu, Governor Reagan visited campus to donate a tree himself. In his first official visit to the Malibu campus, Governor Reagan, together with Nancy, planted a redwood sapling during a small ceremony that included guests ranging from Frank Shakespeare, the outgoing director of the United States Information Agency, to Jim Nabors, the actor best known for portraying Gomer Pyle on television. William S. Banowsky, Pepperdine’s new President, oversaw the event, which was followed by a reception in the Tyler Campus Center and a tour of Payson Library. The group also toured the Brock House, which at the time was not much more than a construction site.
Reagan’s tree was originally planted at the approximate spot now occupied by the Ahmanson Fine Arts Center courtyard. With the expansion of these facilities, the redwood was relocated to its current location, situated between Seaver Drive and the main Seaver parking lot.
You can browse a selection of highlights from Reagan’s tree dedication ceremony in the digital University Archives Photograph Collection.