The communities in the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture and the UCLA School of Public Affairs are deeply saddened by the passing of longtime friend and benefactor, Miriam Perloff, co-founder of UCLA Design for Sharing, and wife of the late Harvey S. Perloff, founding dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, for whom UCLA’s Perloff Hall is named.
A graduate of Juilliard, a professional pianist, concert organizer and publicist, activist and businessperson, Mimi Perloff started the first office temp business in the country, Secretarial and Office Services. She put her many talents to use for the betterment of the UCLA community upon her arrival on campus in 1968.
After her first year, she and arts philanthropist Blanche Witherspoon co-founded UCLA Design for Sharing, a performing arts outreach program that has enabled more than 400,000 public school students and more than 75,000 disadvantaged community members to attend performances by both national and international artists. Their efforts not only focused on allowing the students to experience world-renowned performing arts, but also gave those students an up-close look at university life.
For her contributions to the community, Mimi was honored at the 30th anniversary of Design for Sharing in 1999 and remarked that her “work with Design for Sharing is still one of the most rewarding things she’s ever done.” For her great contributions to the UCLA community, she was awarded the UCLA University Service Award in 1989, and remained the “godmother par excellence” of architecture and the performing arts at UCLA.
“I think the arts change you. They’re a reflection of who you are, who you can be, and what your society is like. The arts are a necessity – not the frosting on the cake, but a basic need,” Mimi Perloff stated during an interview for the 40th Anniversary of Design for Sharing. “The purpose of Design for Sharing was, and still is, to make the arts available to people who would otherwise rarely come in contact with live professional performing arts.”
“For more than 40 years, Mimi Perloff led UCLA’s efforts to provide first-hand experiences in the performing arts to the children of Los Angeles. She served the University and the community with tenacity, high intelligence, and a delightful sense of humor,” said Christopher Waterman, Dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture. “We adored Mimi, and will always be inspired by her passionate commitment to young people and to the arts.”
“Mimi has been a long-time friend and dedicated contributor to our School and our Departments,” remarked Fernando Torres-Gil, Associate Dean of the School of Public Affairs, “No truer friend could a school have.”
“Mimi Perloff was a force of nature and one of the most dynamic, energetic and just plain funny individuals I have ever met. It is impossible to calculate either the extent of her positive influence or the size of the gap her passing leaves. One thing is for sure, Mimi Perloff will never be forgotten,” David Sefton, Director of UCLA Live, said.
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and former chair of the department, described the loss felt throughout the community, “I have a very hard time trying to realize that this wonderful person is no longer with us. She was passionate, energetic, and full of life. We owe her a debt of gratitude for what she has brought to our department and School.”
Mimi Perloff was not only a supporter of the School of the Arts and Architecture and the School of Public Affairs, but also served as president of the board of directors for the UCLA Center on Aging and a member of the Board of Governors for the UCLA Foundation. She showed her dedication to UCLA education in other areas including the David Geffen School of Medicine, the College of Letters and Science, the School of Theater, Film and Television, the School of Law, the UCLA Library, and other UCLA programs.
Born October 29, 1914, Mrs. Perloff died in her Westwood home Thursday, January 21, 2010, surrounded by family. She was 95. She is survived by her two sons, Gregg and Jeffrey, and her grandchildren Lisa, Alexx, and Spenser. Services will be private, with a celebration of Mimi Perloff’s life to be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Design for Sharing (make checks to UCLA Foundation Fund #5765, with Perloff fund/Design for Sharing in memo and mail to Design for Sharing, B100 Royce hall, Box 951529, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1529) or UCLA Center on Aging (10945 Le Conte Ave, Suite 3119, Los Angeles, CA 90095-6980).
Professor Donald Shoup of the Department of Urban Planning shared his memories of Mimi Perloff  during "MimiFest," the celebration of her 90th birthday celebration in November of 2004.
Professor Martin Wachs, who was a long-time member of the UCLA faculty in Urban Planning, also shared this memorial tribute to Mimi Perloff , who was long considered the "godmother" of Urban Planning at UCLA.