A $50 million gift from two generous UCLA alumni has now set the stage for a transformation of the UCLA School of Public Affairs. In recognition of this tremendous investment, the School will be re-named The UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin School of Public Affairs, effective March 18, 2011.
Meyer Luskin, a Los Angeles business leader who once commuted from Boyle Heights to the UCLA campus to earn his degree in economics, and his wife Renee, have given UCLA the second-largest gift in the university’s history, a total of $100 million. From that gift, $50 million are designated for The "Luskin" School of Public Affairs, the professional school that houses graduate programs in social welfare, public policy, and urban planning.
“I live and work in the region and wanted to give back in a creative and unique way that helps UCLA to continue its important work with the broader community,” Meyer Luskin said. “In addition to educating students, providing them a way to improve their lives, and conducting research, UCLA should apply faculty expertise to help address our society’s biggest issues, and I am appreciative of being able to contribute to those ends.”
Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., dean of The UCLA "Luskin" School of Public Affairs, describes the impact of the gift as “allowing us to develop a truly contemporary learning environment for the next generation of public leaders and decision-makers, many of whom choose to devote their professional lives to improving Southern California.”
“The Luskins’ generosity will enable us to expand a regional, national, and global debate on some of the most challenging questions of our time,” said Gilliam, “For example, how do we design modern cities that are livable and sustainable? How do we assimilate immigrants while securing our borders? How do we move toward a more just and equitable society?”
Gilliam said the vast majority of the $50 million flowing to the school will be used to establish endowments to strengthen its academic base, support emerging research areas, and attract the best talent to both the faculty and student body. He said priority areas include graduate student fellowships, faculty teaching and research, civic engagement and new academic programs in urban studies and social justice – all critical to ensuring continued competitiveness with other leading government and public affairs schools.
UCLA "Luskin" School of Public Affairs currently houses the Luskin Center for Innovation, established with support from the Luskins in 2008. The center works closely with elected officials and non-profit, business and community leaders to develop solutions to important policy challenges. “The Luskins’ philanthropic priorities are a natural fit with what we do,” Gilliam said.
Meyer Luskin, 85, is president, CEO and chairman of Scope Industries, which recycles bakery waste to make an animal-feed ingredient. He said a $30 scholarship allowed him to continue his UCLA studies, which were interrupted by his military service in World War II, when he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps (later known as the Air Force.)
“The multi-disciplinary education I received at UCLA has helped me immeasurably in business, whether it’s organizational, management or philosophical issues, and I am eternally grateful,” said Luskin, a history enthusiast.
Luskin met his wife, Renee, while she was a UCLA student. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1953. After completing his bachelor’s degree at UCLA in 1949, Meyer Luskin earned an MBA from Stanford University in 1951.
The Luskins are long-time supporters of UCLA, with their generosity extending to endowments for undergraduate student scholarships and graduate student fellowships, a children’s clinic at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital, the alumni association and numerous advisory boards. Meyer Luskin also has served as chairman of the advisory board for the Santa Monica UCLA-Medical Center.
“UCLA is among the greatest universities in the world, and it gave me my start,” he said. “It’s essential that I give back so that others can enjoy the same benefits.”
Read about the School-wide Welcome Reception for the Luskins. 
Read the full press release on this announcement at the UCLA Newsroom .