Professor of public policy Arleen Leibowitz celebrated her retirement at a reception this past May that included remarks from her colleagues and friends throughout UCLA. Many shared fond remembrances of Leibowitz's scholarship, her generosity with colleagues, and her accomplishments during her years as chair of the Department of Public Policy, including Prof. Daniel Mitchell, who could not attend in person, but sent his written comments to be read:
I must first apologize for being unable to join the tribute to Arleen Leibowitz today. As it happens, I am co-chair of the UCLA Human Resources Round Table or HARRT and had a previously-scheduled commitment to emcee the HARRT session today at the Faculty Center. Still, I am mindful of Yogi Berra’s admonition that you should always go to other people’s funerals or they won’t come to yours.
Anyway, my wife Alice and I actually knew Arleen and Bob Leibowitz going back to grad school days in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 1960s. And eventually we all ended up in LA. Beyond that, when I was department chair of Public Policy (then called Policy Studies) in 1996, I suppose you could say that I hired Arleen. Actually, of course, the departmental faculty did the hiring. But there was at least some cat herding involved for the department chair and for Founding Dean Archie Kleingartner in putting the department together.
The truth is that I had an ulterior motive in hiring Arleen. At the time, I was chairing the department on a half-time appointment. The idea of a half-time department chair is ridiculous on its face but it was necessary back then. The department was in its formative stage and consisted mainly of half-timers and zero-time appointees from other parts of the campus. Nonetheless, the whole focus of my chairmanship – or at least my primary goal – was to hire someone who would (quickly) replace me as chair.
Arleen looked like a prime candidate – both because of her impressive academic accomplishments and also because she seemed to be a great potential full-time department chair. And, indeed, Arleen did become great chair. Taking on that role meant – although she had some prior connections with UCLA – that she had to master the internal workings of the university’s personnel system and its administrative vagaries almost as soon as she set foot in the door. Further, as it turned out, she was twice department chair, while also maintaining a stellar record of research and teaching.
I should also note that Arleen’s second period of chairing the department overlapped with my stint with UCLA’s Council on Academic Personnel (CAP). CAP gives you a perspective on how departments around the entire university handle their academic personnel matters. Public Policy under Arleen looked quite outstanding in that regard when compared with many other (to remain unnamed) UCLA departments. I am not just talking about getting the necessary paperwork assembled. I am talking about Arleen’s genuine concern for her faculty and for department faculty development.
I am sure that others today will speak of Arleen’s research and publications record – as well as her public and professional service - in detail. Obviously, her contributions to the literature and field of health economics are top of the line. What has always struck me about Arleen’s contributions is that they are all “sensible.” By that I mean that they deal with important questions and then take you to a focus on what to do and/or on how to think. Arleen is part of the Blue Sky Group, as you know – but she is not part of the Pie in the Sky Group.
As a simple example, national, state, and local attention in public policy on health has centered on covering the uninsured in recent years, both here in California and now federally. But Arleen has pointed out that the ultimate objective is not insurance policies but good health outcomes. That observation may seem evident once it is said – but few have said it.
As Arleen and others who were early department members retire, this is a good time for the department to consider where it wants to go and – important in these challenging budgetary times – how it wants to get there. I do hope the department will continue its linkages to the area of health policy – in which Arleen has played such an important role - taking advantage of its remaining local strengths and the strengths of the wider campus. I am sure Arleen will be happy to provide continued counsel to the department in that endeavor.
Congratulations Arleen – and again – apologies for not being able to be at the party.
Many good wishes to you on your retirement from your friends at UCLA!