The Littlest Bruin
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day starts with a hug
is not unheard of for a student as young as Catherine to
enter UCLA, but it is rare. In the 30 years that Gloria Nathanson
'62, associate director of Undergraduate Admissions and Relations
with Schools, has been on campus, she can think of perhaps 50 very
young students who have enrolled, usually in their early teens.
don't get very many, maybe one or two a year," she says. "The
youngest I can recall was 11 years old."
is most unusual about Catherine is that she entered UCLA not as
a freshman, but as a junior transfer student. She received an A.A.
degree in mathematics from Riverside Community College when she
was 11, the youngest student ever to graduate from that school.
students so young enter college it tends to attract national attention.
In August, a 12-year-old who started medical school at the University
of Chicago drew national headlines. (He had already graduated summa
cum laude from Chicago's Loyola University.)
parents are mindful of the pitfalls of having an exceptionally bright
child — and Catherine is not their only one. Her younger sister,
Juliet, is on the same trajectory; she is 10 and is expected to
graduate from RCC in June and also hopes to transfer the following
year to UCLA.
read a lot about gifted children," Catherine's father, Gerardo
Beni M.S. '72, Ph.D. '74, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise
after his daughter graduated from RCC last year. "Many burn
out. In other cases, the parents make them a showpiece, circus performers.
Our main goal is for them to be good human beings."
and his wife, Susan Hackwood, have worked to keep their children
out of the limelight — they have deflected attention from
Oprah Winfrey, People magazine, Geraldo Rivera and The
Tonight Show — hoping to ensure them something of a normal
childhood. (They agreed to participate in this story only if it
were used solely for university purposes and would not be more broadly