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Pepperdine Mourns the Passing of Elinor Nootbaar

Herb and Elinor

The Pepperdine University community was saddened to learn of the passing on March 27 of Elinor Nootbaar, wife of Herb Nootbaar of Laguna Beach, California. The couple’s love of Pepperdine and especially the University’s School of Law, motivated them to endow the Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics at Pepperdine. She was 87.

The Nootbaars’ ties to Pepperdine began in the late 1950s when Elinor joined the Associated Women for Pepperdine (AWP) and became acquainted with Pepperdine matriarch Helen Young. Meanwhile, Herb knew Helen's husband Norvel Young, longtime president of the University through the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. As the years went by, Herb and Elinor kept an eye on Pepperdine, and their direct involvement and support of Pepperdine increased when the School of Law named Kenneth W. Starr its dean in 2004.

In reconnecting with Pepperdine through Helen Young and her daughter Sara Jackson, vice chancellor for major gifts at the University, Elinor and Herb made a generous $6 million gift to the School of Law to endow the Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics; the Dean’s Office; and to support the William French Smith Memorial Lecture Series. They have given an additional $4 million to further support the work of the Nootbaar Institute -- making them among the most generous couples in the law school's history.

"The better we came to know Pepperdine University, its people, and its values, the more we felt the answer was in that direction," said Elinor in an article in Pepperdine’s law school magazine. Upon learning about Pepperdine's Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics, they felt it was a perfect fit. "When we realized the extent of the institute's work and the programs and mission, we were so inspired and wanted to help," said Elinor.

The endowment of the Nootbaar Institute has enabled further investigation of law, religion, and ethics through interdisciplinary seminars, conferences, and symposia. In the last several years the institute has hosted conferences on higher law, asylum, international criminal justice, and genocide and religion. The endowment has also strengthened Pepperdine's Global Justice Program, which is housed in the Nootbaar Institute. Among other initiatives, the program gives students the opportunity to extern with human rights organizations both nationally and internationally providing stipends for students pursuing international human rights work across the globe.

"Among the many ways Elinor Nootbaar supported the work of the Nootbaar Institute, one of her most important contributions was that of encouragement," says Bob Cochran, director of the Nootbaar Institute and Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law. "On many occasions, a conversation with Elinor left me, the Nootbaar Fellows, and others associated with the institute excited to continue the work of bringing the insights and compassion of Christ to the causes of justice and care for those Jesus called 'the least of these.' She will be dearly missed."

The couple, who married in 1983 following the death of Herb’s first wife, was known for their immense energy supporting nearly three dozen worthy charities, and traveling to more than 126 countries.

A memorial service for Elinor was held on Friday, April 8 at 11 a.m. at the Presbyterian Church in Laguna Beach where the Nootbaars worshipped.