Rick and Tina Caruso

Rick and Tina Caruso

Local mall developer Rick Caruso has committed to give $50 million to Pepperdine University's School of Law to help low-income students and strengthen the school’s academic programs, the university announced Oct. 23.

The gift from Caruso and his wife, Tina, is the largest to the 50-year-old law school and is also the largest single gift from the Caruso family to any institution. Rick Caruso received a law degree from the Pepperdine School of Law in 1983; his son Alex received a law degree from the school in 2017.

Caruso, a Brentwood resident, ranked No. 10 on the Business Journal’s 2019 list of Wealthiest Angelenos, with a net worth of $5.7 billion, up 19% from last year.

Rick and Tina Caruso have been known in recent years for their philanthropic gifts to Rick Caruso’s undergraduate alma mater, USC, where he is chairman of the board of trustees. But they have also given to Pepperdine over the years. In 1994, they established a fellows program to support scholarly work of law school faculty, and in 1998 they created the Caruso Family Chair in Law.

The couple also had previously established a loan forgiveness fund for Pepperdine School of Law graduates who are dedicated to a career in public service; to date, 70 students have received financial support through the program. The gift, announced Oct. 23, will expand this program as well as provide funding to hire more faculty and boost research efforts.

“My sincere hope is that this gift will be one of the first steps towards reducing the barrier to entry for these students and will inspire the next generation of public servants,” Caruso said in a statement.

Pepperdine University President Jim Gash said in the announcement that the Caruso family has had a long history of making contributions to the Pepperdine School of Law.

“This latest gift from Rick and Tina Caruso will equip the School of Law to attract extraordinary students drawn to Pepperdine’s unique mission, provide them with enhanced legal training, and launch them into impactful careers,” he added.

Education, energy, engineering/construction and infrastructure reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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