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44th Annual Pepperdine School of Law Dinner Celebration

March 14, 2017 | By Alexa Brown—On Friday, March 3rd, over 820 guests attended the 44th Annual Pepperdine School of Law Dinner, held at the Beverly Hilton. Alex Caruso (3L), President of the Student Bar Association at Pepperdine Law, welcomed guests, thanking Dean Deanell Tacha for "giving the best of herself...and her persistence that has helped create a better school, better lawyers, and most of all, better people." He also thanked the event's speakers, for their "leadership and advocacy that have helped ascend Pepperdine Law as an elite school." Guests then honored current students who serve their country, as they stood among the crowd for recognition. The presentation of the colors followed, performed by Jessica Egan (2L), US Marine Corps; Brian Gabriel (3L), US Marine Corps; and Jackie Rodgers Jr (3L), US Army. Thomas Fessler (JD '83) delivered an invocation over the crowd, and Professor Grant Nelson lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Kevin Reddington (2L) then sang a captivating rendition of the National Anthem. 

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Caruso, Dinner Chair, Board of Visitors member, and father to Alex Caruso, Rick Caruso (JD '83) took the stage. He began, "I don't believe there is another law school that has the same passion, and compassion, as this law school." He went on to introduce the dinner's featured speaker, California Governor
Edmund "Jerry" G. Brown, Jr., to a standing ovation.

Governor Brown spoke about his connection to the "school of faith and solidarity," jokingly claiming the title of "honorary alum", as he wrote the will for Sylvia Neville, one of the three generous donors to provide the land on which Pepperdine now sits, and appointed the judge whom Pepperdine names the Vincent S. Dalsimer Appellate Advocacy Competition after. He ended by remarking that Pepperdine Law represents the perfect combination of "imagination and rigor." He received another resounding roomful of applause.

Dean Tacha then took the stage. "Students are at the center of all of our work," she commented. "I can hardly think of leaving you students. You inspire me, raise me to new heights, and give me hope for the future of this profession."

After praising the accomplishments of Pepperdine Law's students, including recent graduate Brittney Lane (JD '12), who is clerking for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Tacha insisted staff and faculty rise to be recognized for the contributions they have continuously provided to the entire law school community. She continued on to thank Faculty Scholars, and the Parris Institute, Preceptors, and Associate Dean and Director of the Parris Institute Danny DeWalt for creating mentorships for students.

"As you know, the proceeds of the dinner tonight go towards providing public service jobs for students. I am proud to say, we raised more than $400,000 dollars, with over $200,000 dollars directly benefiting our students," Tacha announced. She ended by urging students, "be the lawyers I know you can be."

Alex Caruso and Caelan Rottman (2L) took the stage to introduce a new student initiative at the law school: The Student Emergency Fund.  They proudly discussed that the fund was "from the students, for the students," and provided relief to students who find themselves in emergency situations.

University President Andrew K. Benton spoke to the crowd next, claiming he was "proud to be ," and in regards to this years dinner, " ha never attended a finer one." 

"I believe in the School of Law," he spoke, "for not only educating the head, but the heart." He continued on to thank his "courageous friend," Dean Tacha for serving the Law School so well in her position as Dean.

The Honorable Judge Andre Birotte, Jr. (JD '91) presented the night's awards. First, the awards for the Vincent Dalsimer Appellate Advocacy Competition were announced:

Best Brief: 2L Mary-Kate Kelledy & 3L Amber Kruggel. Best Oral Advocate in the Preliminary Rounds: 2L Katie Henderson. Second-Place Team: 2L's Kyler Kelly and
Nicole Hogan. First-Place Team: 2L's Lindsay Enriquez and Katie Henderson.

The Dean's Award for Excellence in Scholarship were announced subsequently, and went to Professor Kris Knaplund, Professor Ed Larson, and Professor Bob Pushaw.

Next, the winners of the student-nominated Professor of the Year award were announced. The award, which has been running for 13 years, is divided into a 1L Professor category, and 2L/3L Professor category. "We honor them not only for their sharp minds and ability to communicate," Birotte spoke about the faculty, "but
also for the inspiration they provide and values they instill for our next generation of great legal minds."

For the second year in a row, Professor Trey Childress was named 1L Professor of the Year. Also earning the award for the second year in a row, Professor Steven M. Schultz was announced 2L/3L Professor of the Year. Student nominations commented that Schultz, "is genuine and funny, but above all, he is compassionate and
strives to ensure that every student is comfortable and happy." was not present to receive the award, as he was attending the wedding of two 3L students.

The final award announced was the Otto P. Cipolla Preceptor of the Year Award, which honors outstanding service by one of the practicing attorneys/judges that mentor Pepperdine Law students. Pepperdine Law is the only law school to offer such a program in Los Angeles. The award went to Catherine Baggett, The Honorable James J. Di Cesare (JD '73), and Kelsey L. Schulz (JD '14).

After the awards ceremony, President Benton took the stage once again for a special announcement.


Causing the entire room to rise to their feet with applause, Benton named Professor Paul Caron as the next Dean of Pepperdine Law School. "Since his first days as a distinguished visiting scholar through his selection as a tenured professor and now his candid and strategic participation in this search process, I have admired Professor Caron for his keen intellect, generous outreach to others, and his sterling reputation within the national legal community," Pepperdine Benton later remarked in the official press release. "It will be a privilege to work side-by-side with him to advance the Pepperdine School of Law, an entity we both hold in high esteem. He will be, I believe, a remarkable law dean."

Professor and President-elect of California Women's Lawyers Christine Goodman delivered the closing benediction, followed by Dean Tacha thanking guests and speakers once again, and inviting guests to enjoy dessert.

Thank you to all of our donors, guests, speakers, and staff for making the 44th Annual School of Law Dinner such a successful and memorable event.

Video produced by Jimmy Dunne.