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Pepperdine University Mourns the Passing of Seaver College Professor Emeritus Glenn Webb

Glenn Webb

Pepperdine University is saddened to announce the passing of Seaver College Professor Emeritus Glenn T. Webb, who died on Saturday, January 6, at the age of 88.

Webb began his career at Pepperdine University in 1987, serving initially as a professor of fine arts. Over the next 17 years in Malibu, he cultivated an enduring legacy at Seaver College by establishing and directing the Institute for the Study of Asian Cultures (ISAC). In this role, Webb introduced countless students to the vibrant cultures of Japan and China.

Webb, his wife, Carol, and students at an award ceremony

“Dr. Webb was a gentle giant who exuded peace and strength,” says Hung Le, Pepperdine’s senior vice chancellor for alumni affairs. “He lived a life of kindness and humility, making us all better through his gentle and sincere spirit. He and [his wife] Carol were perfectly matched; together, they were a force for good. He was a natural teacher who inspired others to want to learn more, who asked questions that evoked deep thought and careful examination. He made us feel valued and loved. We are better because of Glenn Webb.”

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma, Webb spent his childhood mastering classical piano and often performed in recitals across the United States. In 1957 he graduated from Abilene Christian University, where he earned a bachelor of arts in art and religion. Following his undergraduate degree, Webb completed an MFA and MA in art from the University of Chicago, which propelled him toward a Fulbright Scholarship to study abroad at Kyoto University for two years to work on his doctorate in East Asian art history.

While in Kyoto, Webb’s passion for Asian studies blossomed, as he became fascinated with Buddhism, Zen, and the ancient art of chanoyu—a Japanese tea ceremony. This experience motivated Webb to complete a PhD in East Asian art history at the University of Chicago upon his return to the United States. During this time, he also wrote and published his first book entitled, The Arts Of Japan, Late Medieval to Modern.

A career educator, Webb’s tenure as a professor began at the University of Washington in 1966, where he codirected the Center for Asian Arts and forged a foreign exchange program with Kyoto University. He also founded the Seattle Zen Center during his time in Washington State. 

Webb and his wife relocated to Malibu, California, and began working at Pepperdine University in 1987 with the goal of giving back to the Christian tradition the school was founded upon. His mission as a Seaver College faculty member was to start and manage an Asian Studies and arts program. After four years of serving within the Humanities Division, Webb accomplished his goal and formed the Institute for the Study of Asian Cultures at Seaver College. With this program, the East Asia expert sought to inform students’ understanding of Asian culture through a variety of language, literature, and history-based courses. 

Through his role as the ISAC program director, Webb succeeded in creating diverse and active learning environments for students to enjoy. He established a Japanese tea ceremony course that focused on the nation’s culture, art, and tea customs. Webb invited and hosted foreign dignitaries in the class to provide his students with a more authentic cultural perspective. And, if he could not replicate the subjects of his curriculum on campus, Webb was active in chaperoning students to Japan for study abroad opportunities. 

In 2011, Webb was honored by the government of Japan with the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun award. This accolade recognized Webb’s advancement of Japanese Studies in the United States, as well as the productive relationship he helped the two nations form through academia. 

Webb is survived by his wife, Carol St. John Webb, and their son, Reginald.