Alumni News

October 25, 2017 at 9:35 am

Notable Alumni | Athens Prosecutor Works to Help Sexual Assault Victims

Graphic for College of Arts & Sciences Notable Alumni Award

Editor’s Note: The College of Arts & Sciences launches the Notable Alumni Awards, honoring 37 Notable Alumni in 2017 for broad accomplishments in their careers, a commitment to community service at Ohio University, and valuable contributions to Ohio University, the College of Arts & Sciences, and its students.

Elizabeth L. Pepper ’03 History

As lead prosecutor on sexual assault cases in the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, Ohio University alum Elizabeth Pepper has worked hard to reform the process of review within the prosecutor’s office so that victims are more informed and have more opportunity for communication. She wants Athens County to be a place where victims feel the community is working for them, not against them.

As part of her efforts, she has worked with several local agencies including law enforcement, health care, survivor advocate programs and many others to form the Sexual Assault Resource Collaborative. SARC was formed to empower survivors to report sexual assaults, to educate the community about sexual assault and sexual assault prevention and to work on the policies and procedures to better the process from beginning to end. She also continues to work on the ground level with first responders like the hospital and law enforcement to improve prosecution of these cases. She was named Woman of the Year in 2016 by the Athens Foundation Women’s Fund for her work with victims. She remains determined to be part of the changing culture surrounding how sexual assaults and survivors are treated in this community.

Pepper is originally from Logan, Ohio, but grew up in Athens and graduated from Athens High School in 1999. After high school, she earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University in 2003.  She worked locally and subsequently decided to pursue her juris doctorate at The University of Toledo College of Law, graduating in 2009. While in law school, she received a Certificate of Concentration in Criminal Law.

Upon graduation from law school, Pepper returned to Athens and began working at the law firm of Walker and Walker. While there, she worked in all areas of law from civil to domestic relations and also completed Leadership Athens County. When a position opened up at the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, she applied and was hired by Keller Blackburn in 2011. Prosecutor Blackburn placed Pepper in his criminal division. Within a couple of years, she was made Chief of the Criminal Division and as of 2014, was made the lead prosecutor for sexual assault cases and white collar crime cases. She has also served as president of the local bar association.

Elizabeth Pepper

Elizabeth Pepper

In addition to her work with the prosecutor’s office, she is married to a local financial adviser, Patrick Pepper, with whom she shares two wonderful children. They enjoy living in Athens and participating in the many activities that both Athens and Ohio University has to offer.

Engagement with Ohio University

  • Works with Larry Hayman, Ohio University’s Pre-Law Advisor and Specialist, in the Freshman Pre-Law Learning Community
  • Works with incoming students and local high school students as part of the Summer Law Trial & Institute
  • Provides shadowing opportunities and internships to Ohio University students
  • Works with several Ohio University groups including Ohio University Police Department, Survivor Advocacy Program, Equity Civil Rights Program, Community Standards, LGBT Center, Women’s Center, Campus Engagement, College of Health & Sciences

Elizabeth Pepper and a friend at Ohio University

Favorite Bobcat Memory

“This might sound generic, but just the feeling of fall on this campus. I still get to work uptown and be a part of it every year,” Pepper says. “There is a certain feeling I get every fall, and I can’t imagine I would get it anywhere else. You have the busy student-filled streets, football and the gorgeous campus. I just take it all in! I can remember walking to classes during this time of year as soon as that breeze hits!”

Elizabeth Pepper with friends at OU

Remembering a Mentor

“I feel so very fortunate to have been a student of Professor Phillip Bebb. He was an associate professor of history and loved everything about the subject. He was tough. I thought I was going to fail his class, but it only inspired me to work harder. I loved his lectures so much, I ended up doing really well in his class. He would sit and talk with me after class about history and things he had done as part of his learning and upbringing. I could never hear enough of his stories. I was able to take him again for my Tier III class, which was at 8:30 in the morning during the summer quarter and solely about Michaelangelo – so I must have really liked him to sign up for that. I was never bored because he was never bored by what he was teaching. His love for history was infectious. He ended up writing my letter of recommendation for my law school applications,” Pepper says.

“He was later murdered at the hands of his own son in September of 2007. This was an unspeakable tragedy and still weighs heavy on my heart, but I feel so fortunate that I was able to learn from him and have him as a professor. His brother, Jim Bebb, spoke at the funeral and quoted his brother’s favorite, Michaelangelo, ‘I am still learning,’ saying it fit him perfectly. I could not agree more and I try to apply that to my career as an attorney, wife, and mother every day.”

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