The longtime presence of D’Esta Love will no longer grace the Pepperdine campus, as she is resigning her position as chaplain and concluding her full-time service to the University after 25 years of work to serve students in the Florence program.
Shelly Cox and David Lemley, together, will replace Love, who received a Master of Arts in divinity from Pepperdine in 2003 and has been a mainstay on campus since her arrival. Prior to becoming the chaplain, she served for 12 years as the dean of students. Love and her husband, Pepperdine religion professor Stuart Love, will serve as the faculty family in Florence this year.
President Andrew K. Benton, who appointed Love as the university’s first chaplain in 2001, says he will miss the constancy of her presence.
“So often she was the first on the scene at the hospital, or on the phone to those needing encouragement, or reading requests for prayer left on the book she placed in Stauffer Chapel, and always just being a comfort and wise counselor,” Benton said. “Each tragedy of the past few years has touched our campus in some way, and D’Esta was always on point to help us do our best for those in need.”
According to Provost Darryl Tippens, Cox and Lemley will serve in an interim capacity this year. Throughout the next few months, administration will be conducting a national search for a permanent chaplain who will, most likely, begin serving in the fall of 2008.
Until then, Tippens has complete trust in the work of Cox and Lemley.
“They were chosen because they have excellent academic credentials, and also because they have varied experience in Christian ministry,” Tippens said. “They have pastoral hearts and the right personal traits to meet people where they are.”
The chaplains will carry out a wide range of responsibilities that include planning or assisting prayer services, devotionals and worship services throughout the year, as well as providing pastoral care, mentoring and spiritual direction to the university community.
Cox received her master’s in ministry from Pepperdine in 1993 and, since, has filled many spiritual leadership roles. She most recently served as an assistant to the dean of International Programs and as a human resources staff member.
Cox says she’s looking forward to “connecting with students and staff as we pursue God in discussion, worship and prayer.”
“Pepperdine is such a unique community where we are all free to wrestle with God and discern the purpose of our lives,” she said. “I hope David and I can play a part in that struggle and discovery.”
Cox said she hopes to continue the work Love began and develop in her role as chaplain to build on her vision.
“I want to be wholly available both to respond to the spiritual needs of this community and, alongside David, provide opportunities for all its members to remember, celebrate and, if need be, grieve together as people of faith,” she said.
Along with Cox, Lemley is also a Pepperdine alumnus. He has experience planning worship services and has also been an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine.
“I hope I can contribute to opportunities for people, from any background, to connect with others searching out what it means to be human together in this place and time,” Lemley said. “I’ve always enjoyed conversations about who we are, and are becoming, as individuals and in our life together.”
Tippens said he is looking forward to Cox and Lemley taking to their ministry assignments very quickly, and Benton echoed the sentiments of his colleague.
“I admire them for the many positive qualities of their lives and the diversity of approach they will bring to the chaplaincy over the next year,” Benton said. “Both are mature, deeply caring people of faith and prayer.”