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UCLA's 2010 Fab Five

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By Andriana Trang '12

Published May 10, 2011 2:16 PM


From around the country, UCLA alumni will come home on May 21 to Westwood to celebrate their university. Among them will be five men and women, selected as the 2010 UCLA Award recipients for their achievements in community service, professional achievement, public service and university service. Their stories are rich and varied, and they share with us their unique insights with a healthy dose of Bruin pride.

Vinton Cerf M.S. '70, Ph.D. '72 is the 2010 Edward A. Dickson Alumnus of the Year, as well as vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google. He has been granted nearly two dozen honorary degrees from around the world, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. Known as one of the "Fathers of the Internet," it was at UCLA that Cerf was part of the data packet networking group that connected the first nodes of the ARPANET, the predecessor of the Internet.

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Photos courtesy of UCLA Alumni Association.

"I was working at IBM in Los Angeles at the time… but I discovered that [UCLA] graduate students were given enormous latitude in their work and opportunities for leadership. Jerry Estrin gave me substantial leeway to explore ways to use the Sigma-7 computer for early work in computer graphics. The freedom to make mistakes and learn from them was a vital part of my education at UCLA."

He offers his own predictions when asked about the future of the internet, "I see much change - mobiles are becoming a dominant platform for use… the notion that everything is connected all the time, while probably not literally true, will be largely true, making cloud computing vastly more useful. It will be particularly interesting to see how social networking and crowd sourcing will evolve in the next decade." And beyond his expert knowledge, Dr. Cerf shares a memory demonstrating the lengths Bruins go to pursue their passion.

"Steve Crocker and I were best friends from high school. In 1960, he got permission to use a computer in Boelter Hall… we came in one weekend to find the door locked. But Steve was able to boost me up to the second floor to get into an open window and unlock the door on the first floor. 40+ years later at Jerry Estrin's birthday, we re-created the incident and concluded security has not gotten any better in the intervening four decades!"

Madelyn Alfano '80, receiving the UCLA Award in Community Service, is the president and owner of the famed Maria's Italian Kitchen Restaurants. She has been named Woman of the Year by the California State Assembly and the Los Angeles Business Journal has honored her with the Women Making A Difference Award and has named her one of the Top 50 Business Owners in Los Angeles for eight consecutive years. But in addition to her professional success, she dedicates her community and philanthropic work to individuals with disabilities and to children in honor of her son.

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"He inspired me to get involved with the handicapped community," she says, "Blue Sky Meadow is a camp in Big Bear where outdoor environmental science education is experienced — not just taught — to kids through high school. One of my greatest accomplishments is raising funds to build two handicapped dorms there so that all kids can learn together in an environment away from the city and classroom… I believe that allowing children from all walks of life learning and playing together makes a better world through understanding."

As a community leader, Ms. Alfano sees a core relationship between students and volunteerism, "The student body must realize how important their role is in society, and that privilege should be shared with those who have less. They are obligated to get involved in the community."

And her fondest UCLA memory?

"I remember studying at 3 a.m. at Powell then singing and dancing on the steps to "A Chorus Line" with my buddy, David Chernow. I also remember when Kerckhoff Coffee House opened… it was long before Starbucks and was one of the first 'hip' coffeehouses."

Art Spander '60, a highly respected sports journalist is receiving the UCLA Award in Professional Achievement. He has covered many of the biggest events in sports including 58 consecutive Rose Bowls, 45 consecutive Masters Tournaments, 42 U.S. Opens, 34 Super Bowls, 29 consecutive Final Fours, 27 Wimbledons, and 11 U.S. Open tennis tournaments (among others).

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He explains, "I enjoy the routine, the challenge, and the fact that I see and write about the unexpected, if not quite the unknown. I'm not chained to a desk. I'm able to be creative… though after 51 years, I've reached the point where I can't watch sports without feeling compelled to give my opinions on them."

Hard-pressed to pick a favorite sport, Spander says, "At UCLA, basketball and football share number one, but as a kid I grew up with baseball and covered Bruin games at the old diamond where Pauley now stands. Through the years, after writing so much golf — I just covered my 45th straight Masters — I've come to appreciate the subtleties and psychological pain of that sport."

But after building a career in print journalism, "The internet and social media have changed everything. Young people seem not to do anything but text and Tweet — they don't even watch TV. But the internet has provided outlets and work for many, including myself. There's always change, but the change in communication the last 20 years has been revolutionary," he says.

And he remembers his time at UCLA fondly — "Laughter comes easily when you're a student, at least now in reflection. Your worst problems can be distilled down to getting a date and a good grade… ah the good old days of throwing things around the Daily Bruin office and sitting at noon on the library steps shouting at passing friends."

Steve Arditti '64, J.D. '67, the recipient of the UCLA Award in Public Service, has spent his professional career advocating for the University of California and its mission. After graduating law school in 1967, he became the assistant dean of students where his dedication to the university foreshadowed his four decades as its primary advocate, ultimately being granted emeritus status as assistant vice president and director of state governmental relations for the University of California Office of the President.

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"No other institution combines opportunity and excellence for so many as does UCLA. It has prepared tens of thousands of talented young people from all backgrounds to become leaders in our society and our world," he says, but "the UC system and the California Master Plan for Higher Education have never been as severely threatened as they are by the massive budget cuts being proposed today."

"In this time of fiscal crisis, alumni pressures on elected officials have never been more desperately needed. Letters and visits to legislators as well as campaign contributions are vital and make a difference," he says, calling for even more active alumni advocacy.

And Arditti's best UCLA memory?

"Some incredible Rose Bowl wins and basketball championships."

Rita Rothman '70 comes from a family of Bruins, and after her first 1982 volunteer and philanthropic involvement with the UCLA Gymsters, she became deeply involved with UCLA. She has served on the UCLA Foundation Board of Trustees, the Board of Governors and the Board of Directors. She has been Governor of the UCLA Foundation since 1997. Rothman's involvement extends to the College of Letters and Science, having served on the Dean's Advisory Council, the Humanities Executive Council, and helped found the Academic Advancement Program Scholarship Council. Her current involvement is far-reaching and includes serving on the boards of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, the UCLA Center for Society and Genetics, and the UCLA Friends of Art History. For her extraordinary service and support to UCLA, she was selected to receive the UCLA Award for University Service.

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"I always knew I would attend UCLA and couldn't wait to get here… and it has fostered and cultivated my intellectual curiosity and enhanced by sense of the world." And being part of the Bruin family has been "incredibly enriching" for her, she says. "I have made so many friends at UCLA and we've come from different backgrounds and we've gone directions, but our friendships have remained constant for so many years."

"I really enjoyed living in the dorms while I was at UCLA. I met a lot of people and we had a lot of fun participating in campus life, going to dances, listening to music and meeting so many other students."

Like many alumni, she echoes pride in UCLA's community involvement. "There's not a lot of public universities that foster a sense of perception of being in the greater world. There's a porous boundary between the community issues and the school."

And like the other 2010 UCLA Award recipients, she gives thanks to the university for this recognition.

"I feel deeply honored to receive the University award for doing something I enjoy so much… it's like icing on the cake."

For more information about UCLA Alumni Day on May 21, 2011, visit http://www.alumniday.ucla.edu/2011/.

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