Even before she graduated from Pepperdine University, Heidi Bernard was working part-time for the university’s Crest Associates. The English major was a student worker her senior year. When an employee asked Bernard what her plans were after graduation, she said, “I don’t know.” That employee encouraged the then-21-year-old to apply for a permanent position and now Heidi Bernard is celebrating 35 years with the Crest Associates at Pepperdine.
Less than a week after graduation, Bernard was hired as an administrative assistant for the senior vice chancellor who was the director of the Crest Associates. Now, it’s Bernard as the executive director (she’s held the position since 2010). The program is part of the university’s development program.
“The main purpose of the Crest Associates is to grow friends and financial support for the university and for our students,” Bernard explained. “We are a part of the university. We work under the university advancement development office. Some people may think we’re separate from the university—we’re not. An associate is someone who donates a minimum of $1,000 a year to the university and, on top of that, we have the very special privilege of being able to use the athletic facilities for an additional fee. People come who are interested in using the facilities, but we reach out to them and invite them into the community. You can be a part of Pepperdine and you might just like to swim in the pool, but then you meet some of our students, faculty and staff and come to our tennis matches [or] theater and you get more involved.”
Bernard’s involvement has resulted in the cultivation of a lot of friendships locally. With roughly 200 households active in Crest Associates yearly and her more than three-decade involvement, she knows thousands of Malibu residents.
“There are people in our program who’ve been part of Pepperdine in supporting us since I started,” she said. “They’ve seen me grow up in the job. Part of my job is to go into Malibu to meet people and we have such a wonderful Malibu community I become involved with the projects and the nonprofits they have. They help Pepperdine and we’re happy to reach back out.”
Bernard gets personally involved in many charity events and mentioned, “I love to bring students into the community and involve them in the wonderful things we do.”
The 56-year-old has her hand in raising funds for many causes.
“One of my favorites is the Malibu Navy League. Many Crest Associates board members are leaders in the community,” she explained of her connection to charitable causes. Bernard also lends a hand to the Malibu Veterans’ Committee, the Salvation Army Camp in Malibu and the Volunteer Advocate Program, among others. “It’s a pleasure and joy to help others who are spreading their support for those in need,” the community booster said.
Bernard admitted that this year has had challenges. She meets with the Crest Advisory Board online. She’s also been conducting Zoom meetings with the Pepperdine Ambassador Council for student resume reviews, where board members offer career advice. She enjoys matching mentors to students.
When she’s not meeting people virtually, Bernard gets out “when I can, safely, in the community” as she recently did to set up boxes for Toys for Tots.
When asked about her Pepperdine career, the friendly Bernard commented, “It’s a place that has a mission greater than just our daily job.
“It’s my pleasure to share that with those in Malibu and bring the two communities of Pepperdine and Malibu together and I get to do that every day through relationships and friendships,” Bernard said. “Pepperdine is a beautiful place, inside and out. The people are definitely special. Malibu is a beautiful place, but it’s really the heart of the people here at Pepperdine and in Malibu that makes it special.
“The students are the heart of what we do,” she continued. “I really want to say thank you to all those in Malibu and surrounding communities who have come to their games, cheered them on, came to their theater performances, hired them for jobs and mentored them. I’m truly blessed to have that support.”
President and CEO of Pepperdine James Gash said of her, “Heidi is a Pepperdine treasure. She is such a wonderful ambassador for us, for the entire Malibu community, and is beloved by everyone. It is a true pleasure to work with her.”