An autopsy was under way this afternoon on a popular 44-year-old Pepperdine University chaplain who collapsed and died while walking on the beach in Malibu.
Maurice T. Hilliard, who came to Pepperdine in 2001, was the school's athletic chaplain and its director of the Boone Center for the Family. He had been an assistant women's basketball coach at the private Christian college.
"Maurice touched the lives of so many of us at Pepperdine, especially our athletes who looked up to Maurice as a friend, counselor and mentor,'' Andrew Benton, Pepperdine's president, said in a prepared release.
Hilliard's body was found on the beach about 9 a.m. Monday near the 25800 block of Pacific Coast Highway, just east of Corral Canyon Road.
Though the cause of death has not been determined, coroner's spokesman Ed Winter said no foul play was suspected and that Hilliard likely died of "natural causes.''
It was unclear if Hilliard had any chronic health problems.
A Los Angeles native who lived in Malibu, Hilliard graduated from Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of La Verne in 1991 and a master's of divinity from Biola University in La Mirada in 2001.
He also had been Pepperdine's director of operations for the men's basketball team and an academic coordinator. In 2010, he was named program director for the Boone Center for the Family.
In 2010, he published a book called "The Price of a Pearl: The Transforming Power of God in the Lives of Women.''
He was known to take regular walks on the beach.
Women's basketball coach Julie Rousseau called him "a precious gift from God."
"We were blessed to have him touch our lives in such a unique way. Things were different around him. The sun shined a little brighter when he was around.''
--City News Service