Pepperdine Opens New Campus in Switzerland


On Thursday, July 6, 2023, Pepperdine opened the doors of its newest international campus, Château d’Hauteville, a 90-acre 18th-century estate in Blonay – Saint-Légier, a small town overlooking Lake Geneva (known by locals as Lac Léman) in Switzerland.

In an historic moment that was the culmination of more than eight years of exploration, negotiation, and renovation, University president Jim Gash (JD ’93) cut the ceremonial orange ribbon, officially opening the campus. Members of the Pepperdine community, including alumni, friends, and administrators, gathered together with Swiss officials, dignitaries, and residents to celebrate the grand opening in the château’s cobblestone courtyard.

Gary Hanson (JD ’80), senior executive vice president, one of the key administrators who led the effort to purchase the estate, restore it to its historical splendor, and transform it into a residential campus, welcomed the attendees and acknowledged members of the Grand d’Hauteville family, who owned the château for 11 generations. Hanson also thanked the Swiss authorities whose guidance and partnership made Pepperdine’s acquisition of the estate possible.

Dee Anna Smith (’86), chair of the Pepperdine University Board of Regents, led a dedicatory prayer, seeking God’s blessing for “all who pass through these doors in the name of enlightenment, fellowship, and peace.” She continued, “May you work through each of them—and us—to make this a place of learning, of inspiration, of joy, of safety, and of understanding between societies and nations.”

President Gash delivered the keynote address. “International study at every level is a transformative journey that transcends borders and expands horizons. It serves as a bridge that connects people, reaches cultures, and fosters global understanding,” he said. “Pepperdine believes that global learning opportunities are essential to any serious university education. There is no better place for students to grow in knowledge while at the same time learning the value of community, resilience, adaptability, faith, and belonging.”

Château d’Hauteville, the University’s largest campus outside of Malibu, encompasses a 40,400-square-foot, three-story residential château that dates to the 1760s; an orangerie that has been converted into a 150-seat dining hall; a gatehouse; a gardener’s house; a barn; and a greenhouse, as well as French-style formal gardens, tree-lined pathways, an outdoor pavilion, a vegetable and herb garden, woods, vineyards, and a 67-acre working farm.

“Château d’Hauteville is truly a masterpiece in every respect: its rich history, its architecture, its natural beauty, and so, so much more,” Gash continued in his address. “It will be a place of profound impact and will serve as a significant advance in the realization of Pepperdine’s long-term strategies and global vision. As we celebrate the restoration and renovation of this remarkable estate, I want to add my appreciation to all who have made this new campus possible.”

Gash’s speech was followed by a musical performance by Jessica Rivera Shafer (’96), a GRAMMY Award–winning singer and assistant professor of voice at Miami University in Ohio.

The renovation of this baronial estate, which is a Class 1 Historic Monument, and its transformation into a state-of-the-art university campus was overseen by lead architect Nicolas Delachaux. At the dedication ceremony, Delachaux spoke about some of the greatest achievements of the three-year process of restoring the château. His presentation was followed by a speech by Alberto Corbella, cantonal curator of monuments and sites for the canton of Vaud, the region in which the château is located. 

“Pepperdine has spared neither effort nor resources to transform this 18th-century stately home into a 21st-century university,” Corbello said. “Please accept the sincere and respectful thanks of the Division of Monuments and Sites for your commitment. The château has been restored to its original splendor, while becoming a fully efficient building adapted to its new functions. Château d’Hauteville will not be a museum, but a place where people live.”

The event culminated in Gash cutting the ceremonial ribbon in front of the château’s main entrance. He was joined by Delachaux, Hanson, Smith, and Marc Goodman, the inaugural vice chancellor of Château d’Hauteville and chief administrator for the campus.

The first class of students will arrive in August to begin their studies at the château. Undergraduates will have the opportunity to take a variety of general education courses such as French, world civilizations, earth science, Christianity and culture, plants and the environment, and sociology, while graduate students will be able to study foreign policy and alternative dispute resolution.

In addition to its function as an enriching learning environment, Château d’Hauteville will serve as a world-class venue for the convening of retreats, conferences, and lectures on topics of global and international significance.

In September, the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University’s Caruso School of Law will convene its popular professional training program, Mediating the Litigated Case, at the château. In this first-of-its-kind Straus MLC Global event, distinguished faculty, featuring nationally recognized dispute resolution experts, will teach timely negotiation and dispute resolution skills for mid-career lawyers and judges to advance their professional goals. 

In collaboration with the Heritage Foundation, this fall the château will also host a conference on European cybersecurity led by Kiron Skinner, the Taube Professor of International Relations and Politics at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy and former director of policy planning at the US Department of State.

To learn more about the history, acquisition, and renovation of Château d’Hauteville, read “A Grand Opening” in the summer 2023 issue of Pepperdine Magazine.

Source : Pepperdine