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Bruin Tracks: Pioneer Bruins Reunion


Published Oct 1, 2007 8:00 AM

Copyright © Illustration by Franklin Hammond

Sherman Grancell '30 thinks he knows the key to his popularity among the Pioneer Bruins. "We have a champagne brunch every year," he says, "and I furnish the champagne so they keep reelecting me president. But maybe you'd better not print that."

Grancell and his fellow Pioneers have earned the right to speak freely about everything. As Pioneer Bruins, a distinction reserved for UCLA alumni who attended classes on the old Vermont Avenue campus, they stand witness to nine decades of university history and lore.

Now the group is deep into planning for its 78th Reunion, to be held on Sunday, November 4, at the James West Alumni Center, and this year there's a delightful new twist to the tradition. The 2007 Reunion will include the newest as well as the most senior generation of Bruins, as Alumni Scholars and members of the alumnae special interest group Las Doñas join the party.

"The reunion allows the Pioneers to feel important in the historical perspective of UCLA," says Las Doñas member Ann Payne '52. "Some were at the groundbreaking ceremony when they dug the first shovel of dirt for the new [Westwood] campus."

Michelle Mahanian '07, who attended the 2006 reunion and spoke to the group in her role as vice president of the Alumni Scholars Club, says she jumped at the chance to spend time with her Bruin elders.

"I immediately felt a strong bond with both the Pioneer Bruins and Las Doñas," she says. "We all hold in common our commitment and dedication to UCLA and our strong sense of Bruin pride."

Listening to Pioneers recount their personal UCLA experiences and histories was an inspiration, Mahanian adds. "One man told us that he was a member of UCLA's first track and field team and had medaled in the Olympics," she recalls. "Another Pioneer told us that she'd been to the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of the Westwood campus."

"They keep the crowd going," Grancell says of the younger Bruins. "They spoke about UCLA and kept things lively, even though we Pioneers are always most anxious to talk to each other."

The Pioneers first opened the doors to younger Bruins in 1996. "We discovered that many Pioneers would love to attend, but they had no way of getting there," says Las Doñas member Dolly Rogers '57.

Fellow club member Sandy Hubert '68 committed the group to helping. Today, they bring Pioneers to the reunion from as far away as Newport Beach and Oxnard, help with decorations and gift baskets, and assist in making the event a memorable occasion.

"Without Las Doñas, we'd have been finished a long time ago," says Grancell. "We're all 95 or older now. Some of us are over 100, so it gets harder each year."

"Sandy deserves a lot of credit for making sure the Pioneer reunions continue," says Rogers. "She's really gone to bat to help keep the reunions going. As long as there are two Pioneers who want to attend, we'll find a way to make it happen."

"They so look forward to this day when they are in the spotlight with an opportunity to return to campus and be honored as an important part of UCLA history," says Payne. "These Pioneers are a treasure that should be appreciated and celebrated by all Bruins." 

— Mark Davis

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