Beloved by many in Lubbock where she served with her husband, Norvel, in ministry at the Broadway Church of Christ, then later first lady of Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA, Helen Young passed from this earth on Nov. 30, 2017.
Born Helen Elizabeth Mattox on Aug. 31, 1918, Young grew up in a devout Christian home in Oklahoma City, OK, and was well-known for her faith in Christ, warm hospitality, and generous heart.
The sixth child in a family of seven siblings, Young grew up in a household dedicated to sharing Christ through serving the church, promoting Christian education, and loving without prejudice the privileged and the poor. After years of witnessing her parents plant and serve various congregations of Churches of Christ, Young followed their example, loving and serving family and congregation.
Young initially began her college career in 1935 at Church of Christ sister school Harding College in Searcy, AR, but after two years, her mother encouraged her to risk going west to the new George Pepperdine College in Los Angeles, CA, to complete her undergraduate business degree.
In 1938, Helen met Pepperdine history professor M. Norvel Young. With permission from the college’s president, Batsell Baxter, to pursue a courtship, the two fell in love and were married at her home church in Oklahoma City on Aug. 31, 1939, soon after her graduation and on her 21st birthday. This union marked the beginning of a love that would last for nearly six decades and produce four children.
The newlyweds lived in Los Angeles as Norvel continued to teach history at Pepperdine, then moved to Nashville, TN, where they both earned graduate degrees and eventually chose to minister for thirteen years with the Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock. As Helen and Norvel served that congregation, it grew to be one of the largest Churches of Christ in the United States. In the 1950’s they encouraged the founding of The Children’s Home of Lubbock. Helen also hosted and participated in many planning sessions that birthed Lubbock Christian University. Helen's brother, Dr. F. W. Mattox, became the founding president of LCU. She and Norvel loved Lubbock and returned to visit as often as possible after their move to CA.
In 1955, Young founded the daily devotional guide, Power for Today, which she edited until 1972 and continued writing for as it grew to 50,000 subscribers.
Then in 1957, the couple was invited by the Pepperdine Board of Trustees to return to campus to serve as the University’s third president and first lady. Helen embraced this new role wholeheartedly, encouraging faculty members and their families and entertaining donors and friends. She acted as a fund-raiser and friend-maker for 41 years at Pepperdine University.
Young’s writing and teaching influenced many generations of women in Churches of Christ. She was named by historian Richard Hughes as “perhaps the most visible and influential woman among Churches of Christ in the second half of the 20th century.” She traveled around the world speaking for women’s seminars, lectures, and retreats. Many who heard her still say she changed lives. Young taught college courses at Pepperdine in sociology, marriage and family, as well as a course entitled “The Bible and the Modern Woman.”
As Pepperdine’s first lady, Young established the Associated Women for Pepperdine (AWP) to use the power of women in support of Christian higher education, raising funds for student scholarships, and influencing young people to consider Pepperdine as their college choice. AWP has raised millions of dollars since its launch in 1958.
Young received countless awards and recognitions for her service to Pepperdine University. And for her impact on Christian education, Helen received high honors from sister schools—Lubbock Christian University, Oklahoma Christian University, Harding University, and Lipscomb University.
Young is survived by her daughters, Emily and Sara, and son, Matt, thirteen grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her husband of 59 years, Norvel; her daughter, Marilyn Stewart; her granddaughter, Monica; and her six siblings. A memorial service will be held in January at Elkins Auditorium on the Pepperdine University campus in Malibu. Additional details are forthcoming.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial gifts to the Young Scholarship at Lubbock Christian University or to The Children’s Home of Lubbock.