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Spring 2002
Why I Give
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IVAN MENSH:
NURTURING STUDENTS

"You have reached the office of Dr. Ivan Mensh, M-E-N-S-H, in the Neuro-psychiatric Institute."

IVAN  MENSHIn his phone message, the doctor spells out his name so people won't mistake it for "mensch," which happens to be the Yiddish word for "a real human being," a person who combines kindness, responsibility and dignity. A word that, in fact, is an altogether fitting description of Dr. Mensh.

Professor Emeritus Ivan Mensh of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences is in his 80s but still walks the mile-and-a-half from his home to campus every morning. Before going on rounds at the hospital, reporting to work at the Alzheimer's Clinic or one of numerous other professional duties, he stops in to visit his colleagues and friends. The faculty, administrators and support staff at the Neuropsychiatric Institute (NPI) have evolved into a kind of extended family for him, especially after the death of his beloved wife, Frances, in 1997. They respect him and adore him — most of them not even realizing that he has given UCLA nearly a third of a million dollars.

Not that he could always afford it. Mensh was the third of six brothers whose parents owned a neighborhood grocery store in Washington, D.C. After high school, he was admitted to George Washington University, where he earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in psychology. But tight finances would require that he work full-time and go to school two or three classes at a time.

It was at GW that he met Fran, a fellow student, while lined up alphabetically for their I.D. badges — her maiden name was Levitis, standing just one letter of the alphabet away. They started talking, and a year later they married. Fran worked as a secretary while Ivan attended school days and worked nights as a psychiatric aide at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. Every evening, he would change buses at the stop near Fran's office "so we'd have 15 minutes together," he says.

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