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Dr. Wayne Strom (pictured), Pepperdine University emeritus professor of behavioral science, died April 2 of complications with coronavirus. Photo provided by Pepperdine University
Heather Warthen, Contributing Editor
12:01 pm PDT April 8, 2020

The Pepperdine University community is currently grieving the loss of longtime emeritus professor of behavioral science, Dr. Wayne Strom. Strom died April 2 from complications associated with coronavirus.

“I am heartbroken to share that the University was notified last night that Wayne Strom, one of our beloved Graziadio faculty emeriti, has passed away from complications associated with COVID-19,” said Pepperdine President and CEO Jim Gash in a memo to the Pepperdine community Saturday, April 4. “I extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to Dr. Strom’s family, friends, and loved ones who are devastated by this loss.”

According to an April 6 news release from the university, the Graziadio Business School had been notified by Strom’s wife, Kathy, of his death.

“We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Dr. Strom in the course of his 50-year relationship with the Graziadio School,” said Deryck van Rensburg, Pepperdine Graziadio Business School dean, said in the release. “Dr. Strom showed that the beauty of great ideas are born from inspiration and demonstrated in real-world impact.”

According to the release, Strom was a Best for the World Leader whose achievements at Graziadio endure today. Strom became a full-time faculty member in 1970. In 1971, he was one of three founders of the prestigious Pepperdine Presidents and Key Executives MBA Program. From a trailer across from the law school, Strom planted the seeds for the success of the full-time MBA which eventually found a home on the Drescher Campus.

“It was Wayne’s initiative, determination, and commitment that ignited the flame. It was my privilege to be part of his vision,” said Mark Mallinger, emeritus professor of applied behavioral science, in the release.

The release also said “Strom modeled a ‘today, not tomorrow’ approach in his time as associate dean and director of graduate programs, launching numerous initiatives and serving as chairman of multiple academic committees. Many attributes that distinguish Pepperdine Graziadio are reflections of Strom’s groundbreaking work in areas such as ‘high impact listening,’ and ‘non-reactive conflict resolution.’”

“Wayne and I had many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners talking through these issues as our school worked together to maintain its uniqueness while demonstrating the necessary attributes for AACSB accreditation,” said Otis Baskin, former dean, emeritus professor of management in the release. “Working opposite of ‘industry standards’ down from PKE to EMBA, FEMBA, and full-time MBA programs had created a very different focus on management education - the executive.”

Strom also coached, assessed, and taught leadership to more than 1,500 company presidents and senior executives, energizing teams to transform corporate culture, according to the release. It also stated that he encouraged thousands of student-professionals to prioritize human spirituality in the pursuit of goals and encouraged success in the corporation and in life.

“Wayne cared deeply about the personal development of his students. Countless professionals have been ‘Stromitized’ through their participation in Wayne’s behavioral workshop,” said David M. Smith, professor of economics, in the release. “Wayne was a one-of-a-kind, focused, and confident individual. I am privileged to have known him.”

According to the release, Strom founded the Pepperdine Civic Leadership Project in 1986, championing public engagement to build stronger communities. He was heavily involved with the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission in Mission Hills and he worked to enlist executives in coaching employable but unemployed and homeless men and women in developing job search skills. Many senior-level executives count Strom as a caring mentor, fully present in the moment, who practiced the simple principle of “it is not necessary to react.”

The release also went on to state that Strom’s interest in helping students learn was his passion for helping colleagues grow.

“Wayne would contact me out of the blue because he’d remembered a fragment of a conversation and thought he might have discovered information or resources that I would find helpful,” said Miriam Lacey, professor of applied behavioral sciences. “He was a man of faith and had a deep spiritual life of great meaning. I was fortunate to have him as my mentor and friend.”

According to the April 4 memo from Gash, pastoral support and counseling was made available for students, as well as faculty and staff through the employee assistance program.

In the April 6 news release, Strom’s family requested that remembrances and donations can be made to the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School Scholarship Fund by clicking here. Donations can also be made to Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission in Mission Hills online or via mail Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, PO Box 7609 Mission Hills, CA 91346.