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Pepperdine Caruso Law Annual Dinner Honors Founding Dean Ronald F. Phillips

Pepperdine Caruso School of Law honored its founding dean and dean emeritus, Ronald F. Phillips, for his lifetime of dedicated service to the law school and the University with a celebratory annual dinner held on Saturday,  April 6 at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills. One of the most significant figures in the law school's history, Dean Phillips secured the law school's accreditation, oversaw its move from Orange County to Pepperdine’s main campus in Malibu, and helped guide it to become one of the premier law schools in the nation.

Attended by generations of the Caruso Law community, the evening's speakers and guests shared stories of the profound impact Dean Phillips has had on their lives as students and professionals. During the program, Pepperdine alumni, benefactors, friends, and family conveyed their appreciation for Dean Phillips, including greetings by Lauren Cosentino ('97, MBA '12), Terry Giles (JD '74), and Michelle Hiepler (JD '89); musical performances and an invocation by Caitlin Quisenberry ('18) and Jessica Rivera Shafer ('96); the pledge of allegiance by Alice Starr; and special remarks by Board of Regents chair Dee Anna Smith ('86), University president Jim Gash (JD '93), and Caruso Law dean Paul L. Caron. Heartfelt tributes to Dean Phillips were given by Michelle Hiepler, Rick J. Caruso (JD '83), Janet Kerr ('75, JD '78), Terry Giles, Scott Mager (JD '82), and Phil Phillips ('88, JD '92).

Dee Anna Smith and Ron Phillips 2024

In his honoree remarks, Dean Phillips spoke about the two pillars of his leadership - his faith in God and his commitment to students, whom he considers the highly valued center of the law school's success. He commented that he selected law faculty and staff who would guide students to reach their full potential, and he continues to be proud of Caruso Law's "vision and commitment to improving the world around us while producing outstanding lawyers." He also said he is particularly proud that the first Pepperdine alumnus to become president of the University is a graduate of the law school, Jim Gash.

Dean Phillips paid tribute to his beloved wife Jamie, whom he credits during the first 26 years of his deanship for "doing more than half of what we accomplished together." He said he would remember the night with gratitude and cherished seeing so many dear friends. Dean Phillips then closed his remarks with 1 Corinthians 2:9, "However, as it is written: 'What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived' - the things God has prepared for those who love him - these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit."

Of the many celebrants of the evening, one special group was members of the class of 1973, the first graduating class of the Orange University College of Law in Santa Ana. The alumni celebrated their 50th reunion with Dean Phillips last year and give him "an enormous debt of gratitude for his contributions to our achievements as lawyers."

Law class of 1973 annual dinner 2024

During the program, it was announced that due to the generosity of the Pepperdine community, the University had exceeded its fundraising goal to endow the Ronald F. Phillips Chair at Caruso Law. The generosity is a testament to how thankful the University family is for Dean Phillips’ transformative years of service and leadership. Further, it was announced that if the Caruso Law community raises an additional $1 million, Pepperdine will match those gifts with a $3.5 million contribution and establish a second endowed chair in honor of Dean Phillips’ wife Jamie. With these endowments, Caruso Law will be able to attract not one but two of the world’s finest legal scholars to shape law students for purpose-driven lives of outstanding servant leadership and help lift the law school’s standards of academic excellence to even greater heights.

A special message from Dean Phillips may be viewed at Celebrating the Legacy of Caruso Law Dean Emeritus Ronald F. Phillips

Ron Phillips family 2024