Korn Ferry Assists Pepperdine University in President Search

February 26, 2019 – Korn Ferry has assisted Pepperdine University in the selection of James A. Gash, associate dean for strategic planning and external relations and professor of law at the Pepperdine School of Law, as its eighth president and CEO. Andrew K. Benton, who has held the role since 2000, recently announced that he would step down at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

“The board’s selection of Jim Gash to serve as the next president of Pepperdine is an auspicious moment in the history of this remarkable university,” said Ed Biggers, chair of the board of regents. “Throughout his venerable career at Pepperdine and beyond, Jim follows in the footsteps of Pepperdine presidents before him who have demonstrated the kind of inspiration, integrity, strength and measured leadership that have made this university into the elite academy it is today. We will be fortunate to have Jim’s guiding vision for Pepperdine as we write our next chapter and continue to be a leading university in Christian higher education.”

Mr. Biggers also praised the robust participation from the Pepperdine community throughout the search and the work of the presidential search committee, which was led by regent Dale Brown and committee vice chair Harold Smethills.

“For the past year, the presidential search committee along with the board of regents have worked tirelessly to identify the next chapter of Pepperdine leadership,” said Mr. Biggers. “I’m grateful for the commitment and support of each of these groups, which have done an exceptional job gathering and listening to community feedback and carefully deliberating the qualities of each candidate.”

Mr. Gash is a renowned education administrator, legal scholar, global justice advocate and attorney. As the associate dean for strategic planning and external relations, Mr. Gash provides operational oversight for many of the School of Law’s signature development initiatives. As professor, his areas of focus are torts, evidence, global justice and international human rights. He also serves as the director of the Sudreau Global Justice Program at Pepperdine Law, is a special advisor to the High Court of Uganda, and was recently named chancellor of LivingStone International University in Mbale, Uganda.

Related: Academic Sector Pumping Big Fees Into Search Firms

Prior to joining the faculty at Pepperdine, Mr. Gash worked for the litigation firm DeSimone & Tropio, then served as a law clerk to judge Edith H. Jones, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He later joined Kirkland & Ellis, where he focused on civil and appellate litigation until he went to Pepperdine as an associate professor of law in 1999.

Highly Ranked

Pepperdine is located in Malibu, CA. A preeminent Christian university, the school defines its role by its Christian mission and relationship to Churches of Christ. The university is committed to both scholarship and spiritual development in the lives of its students and values leadership formed by its faith heritage. As such, a necessary qualification for the president role is an active membership within a congregation of this body of churches, said Korn Ferry.


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Ranked in the top 50 national universities by U.S. News & World Report, Pepperdine enrolls about 7,800 full-time and part-time students in its five colleges and schools with about 380 full-time faculty and over 1,110 full-time staff. Pepperdine has five graduate campuses across Southern California, six permanent international campuses, and additional study and internship programs on six continents.

Related: Recruitment for Higher Education Leaders Heats Up and Shifts

Pepperdine has top-ranked programs for graduate and undergraduate studies, with 73 degree programs and a 12.5:1 student teacher ratio across five schools. Pepperdine’s NCAA athletic program comprises eight men’s and nine women’s Division I teams, 13 national championships and 12 individual championships. Its graduates include 48 Olympians and six gold medalists.

Unbridled Progress

“Pepperdine has always been a story of unbridled progress and never more so than under the leadership of Andy Benton, who has propelled this university to the highest echelons of Christian higher education in the U.S.,” said Mr. Gash. “I am both humbled and thrilled to have the opportunity to build on his administration’s legacy of growth and excellence, fueled by the imagination, innovation, and creativity of Pepperdine’s talented faculty, staff, students, and alumni around the world.”

Korn Ferry’s global education practice provides comprehensive organizational consulting services spanning strategy execution, leadership development, talent acquisition, assessment and succession, and rewards and benefits. The firm works across the spectrum of public and private, small to large, faith-based, and for-profit higher education clients. Korn Ferry has served as a consultant and counsel in over 800 educational searches in the last decade.

Related: Why Universities Have Stepped Up Efforts to Involve Search Firms

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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