Michael F. Adams Named Chancellor of Pepperdine University

July 30, 2015  | 3 min read

The early 1980s signaled a new era of advancement at Pepperdine University following the historic opening of the Malibu campus.

It was when the iconic mission statement embodying Pepperdine’s distinctive philosophy was first introduced to the campus community; when the campus expanded to include the George Page Residential Complex for law students and the Seaver College Apartments for undergraduates; and when great administrative changes ushered in a high degree of enthusiasm, optimism, and cooperation. At the height of the exciting changes, Michael F. Adams, a doctoral graduate of The Ohio State University, who had served as chief of staff for senator Howard Baker, and as an advertising executive in Nashville, became the new vice president for University Affairs.

This June, after serving the University of Georgia as its president for 18 years, the award-winning educator and political communication specialist returned to Pepperdine University as chancellor.

“I have great confidence that Mike will open doors of opportunity, giving us the advantage we need to become a preeminent, global, Christian university,” says president Andrew K. Benton. “Mike and Mary Adams are true and dependable friends who have never been far from the Pepperdine community. I am grateful for their friendship and am encouraged and lifted by their willingness to build upon the great work of Chancellor Emeritus Charles B. Runnels and his wife Amy Jo to help us frame the next chapter in Pepperdine’s history.”

As chancellor, Adams will focus on cultivating existing relationships and developing new partnerships to extend Pepperdine’s reach throughout Southern California and around the globe. Following the recent success of the Campaign for Pepperdine, Adams will take a leadership role on major initiatives and help strengthen the University’s endowment.

“There is no better person to serve Pepperdine in this capacity than Mike Adams,” says Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. “Mike has strong ties to Pepperdine, and has contributed to almost every major discussion in higher education over the last 30 years. He is an accomplished leader, a prodigious fundraiser, and has served both public and independent institutions. Mike’s experience and Pepperdine president Andrew K. Benton’s leadership will combine to build a great future for the University.”

Adams most recently held the titles President Emeritus and Regents’ Professor at the University of Georgia. Under his leadership, from 1997 to 2013, the university was recognized as one of the nation’s top 20 public research universities for eight out of 10 years by U.S. News & World Report. During his tenure, the university also attained its highest rankings ever, became the most selective in its history, and grew from an estimated 29,000 students to almost 35,000 students today. Prior to his term at the University of Georgia, he served as president of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, one of America’s top 40 liberal arts colleges, from 1989 to 1997.

A widely respected figure in higher education, Adams has been elected by his peers to lead a number of national organizations, including the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the American Council on Education (ACE), and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Executive Committee.

“I am honored and delighted at this stage in my career to have the opportunity to serve an organization that I care deeply about,” says Adams. “With President Benton’s leadership and the support of the administration, I look forward to once again being part of the Pepperdine community and adding value to this fine institution that boasts a legacy of excellence.”

Adams has received more than 50 awards in higher education, including the Knight Foundation Award for Presidential Leadership, the Pioneer Award for Leadership in Civil Rights, and the James T. Rogers Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. He is also the recipient of the Governor’s Award in the Humanities from the Georgia Endowment for the Humanities.

“I am excited to work alongside Chancellor Adams in engaging a broader array of friends and supporters of the University,” says Keith Hinkle, senior vice president for advancement and public affairs and chief development officer at Pepperdine University.

Adams holds a PhD from The Ohio State University and has been awarded five honorary degrees. In addition, he is a specialist in political communication and higher education administration and has written professionally in both areas. He has held senior positions in state and national government—as chief of staff to former senator Howard Baker and as an advisor to former Tennessee governor and current senator Lamar Alexander.

Adams earned an undergraduate degree in speech and history from Lipscomb University, which named him Alumnus of the Year in 2011. He has been married to his college sweetheart, Mary Lynn Ethridge Adams, for 46 years. They are the parents of two sons and have three granddaughters.