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The Pepperdine School of Public Policy Mourns the Loss of Student Floyd Black

October 6, 2020  | 3 min read

Theme Tower at Pepperdine University

The Pepperdine School of Public Policy shared the news of the tragic passing of first-year student Floyd Black after the University was notified that he passed away unexpectedly on Monday, September 28, 2020. We offer our heartfelt condolences to Black's family, loved ones, and friends.

A graduate of the University of Virginia with a bachelor of history degree where he served as the class president and a Merriweather Lewis fellow working with other student leaders on community and university projects; Black joined the School of Public Policy to work for a local, state, or national political team with a focus in helping vulnerable communities. Drawing on his own upbringing and inspiration, his main policy interest was centered on educational inequality and how it affects a person's chance in life. He was specializing in state and local policy, and hoped he would soon make a difference back in his hometown of South Central, Los Angeles. As an avid reader, he was also a prolific writer and contributed his skills by writing for the school’s biannual Dean's Report.  Although he had just begun his master of public policy journey, he made an impact on all the students, faculty, and staff and an outpouring of stories of friendship, mentorship, and quest for knowledge will leave a permanent legacy. 

Professor Ted McAllister, who regularly met with Black shares, “Floyd Black was sweet of spirit and aggressive of mind. Open and deeply curious, he offered a unique blend of intellectual humility and fierceness that made him a man most rare in this age; a man who hadn’t yet discovered how deep his intellectual talent ran or understood how much he had to offer to our ideological age. Floyd’s passing is an unimaginable loss to his family and friends and so also the loss to posterity is incalculable—for children unborn, dreams unrealized, relationships never built. Each generation is destined to have few faithful enough to themselves and their better angels to search for truth in times of disorder. Floyd was one of the few.”

Black made a lasting impression on his classmates and friends. Daniel Kibuuka (’18) shared, "I was roommates with Floyd for only six weeks, but this was enough time to discuss a lot about education, public policy, Japanese cars, and the LA Lakers. He always talked about how he wanted to be done with school, but then needed to go to graduate school to further learn and obtain tools that he could use to make a positive impact in his home community. To Floyd, making education opportunities more accessible to people in lower income communities was one of the most sustainable ways of uplifting them, and he believed he could do something to make it happen. Floyd was engaging. He could knock on my door to ask a random question, share about his time in Virginia, or ask how to greet in my first language, which he kept on forgetting every single time. Floyd was optimistic, occasionally annoyingly joyful, and I am having such a hard time to believe he is gone." 

Pete Peterson, Braun Family Dean at the School of Public Policy shares, “With classes transitioning to online this fall, I haven’t had the usual opportunity to get to know our first year students. But because he lived on campus, I saw more of Floyd more than any of our new students. He was always quick with a handshake and hug—even in this age of social distancing—it was an encouragement each time I saw him.” Peterson concluded, “I’ll miss him terribly—both for who he was, but also for the impact he would have had in a world that needs it.”

Psalm 42 perfectly describes the experience of a broken heart as it encourages us to seek out God and others in the midst of pain: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Mount Hermon-from Mount Mizar.”

Let us press on, then, in the midst of this sadness, to recommit ourselves to supporting one another, and carrying forward Black's vision for a better world. That much is in our hands, and may God bless the work of our hands.

The School of Public Policy will host a virtual memorial service on Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 12 noon PST and welcome the University community to join in celebrating the life of Floyd Black.  We are collecting cards and messages of condolence and will be sending them along to Floyd’s family. Those that would like to send a card may mail them to the attention of SPP Dean’s Office, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90263.

Register for the online Celebration of Life for Floyd Black