UCLA Alumni Association Honors Luskins, Coggins

The UCLA Alumni Association hosted a virtual ceremony to honor Meyer and Renee Luskin, Wilfred “Bill” Coggins MSW ’55 and other Bruins whose service to UCLA and the world have made a great impact. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block introduced a video segment (beginning at minute 40:17) featuring the Luskins, the 2020 Edward A. Dickson Alumni of the Year, UCLA’s highest alumni honor. “For as long as I’ve had the pleasure of knowing the Luskins, they’ve always credited UCLA with giving them their start,” Block said of the couple, first-generation college students who are now major benefactors of UCLA and namesakes of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Meyer Luskin earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1949, then went on to launch Scope Industries, which recycles bakery waste to make an ingredient in animal feed. Renee Luskin earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1953. The Luskins said their parents came from modest means but emphasized charity and philanthropy. “We wanted to have the pleasure of helping people,” Meyer Luskin said. Paco Retana ’87, MSW ’90 introduced Coggins (beginning at minute 27:10) and paid tribute to his decades of stewardship of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center. Retana called Coggins “the heart and soul of the center,” which helps families achieve academic and personal success. “I believe in education. I believe in self-actualization. I believe in human potential,” said Coggins, who received the UCLA Award for Community Service. The May 22 virtual ceremony recognized several recipients of the 2020 alumni awards, which were announced last year

Watch the UCLA Awards virtual ceremony


Brain Teasers and Belly Laughs at Virtual Trivia Night 2.0

Continuing a longstanding Luskin School tradition of closing out the academic year with a spirited competition, students, alumni, faculty and staff came together to test their knowledge of pop culture and arcane UCLA facts at Virtual Trivia Night 2.0. Alumni turned out in force, making up more than half the total participants, said Tammy Borrero, UCLA Luskin’s director of events. With COVID-19 precautions in place, the May 27 contest again took place on a digital platform, and some participants gave a nod to the times we live in with team names such as “Nerd Immunity” and “None the Pfizer.” The top prize in the individual competition went to U.S. Foreign Service Officer Jason Vorderstrasse, UCLA’s diplomat in residence for the 2021-22 academic year. Public Policy students and alumni made up the top-scoring team, giving the department an edge in overall standings since the tradition began in 2013. The winners earned cool prizes, bragging rights and their names emblazoned on the UCLA Luskin Quiz Bowl trophy.

Team Competition Winners

  • First Place: La Croix Taste Test Troix (Adam Barsch ’20, Jess Bendit, Rosie Brown, Dickran Jebejian ’20, Erica Webster ’19), Public Policy
  • Second Place: Public Private Partnership (Ma’ayan Dembo ’20, Katherine Stiegemeyer ’20, Spike Friedman ’20, Lupita Huerta ’20, Peter Garcia ’20), Urban Planning
  • 3rd Place: The Public Affairs Bears Quaran-Team (Justin De Toro, April Michelle Enriquez, Erika Villanueva, Kevin Medina, Jocelyn Guihama), Undergraduate Program

Individual Competition Winners

  • First Place: Jason Vorderstrasse, Public Policy Diplomat in Residence
  • Second Place: Lance MacNiven, Urban Planning ’16
  • Third Place: Austin Mendoza, Undergraduate Program

Team departmental standings over the years:

  • 2013: Urban Planning
  • 2014: Public Policy
  • 2015: Urban Planning
  • 2016: Public Policy
  • 2017: Social Welfare
  • 2018: Public Policy
  • 2019: Social Welfare
  • 2020: Social Welfare and Urban Planning
  • 2021: Public Policy

Contestants compete for cool prizes and bragging rights at the individual trivia competition.

In Memoriam: Martin Wachs, Renowned Transportation Scholar The prolific author and educational leader was an award-winning teacher and caring mentor to generations of urban planners

By Stan Paul

Martin Wachs, distinguished professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, died unexpectedly April 12 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79.

“Marty Wachs was mentor to an entire generation of urban planners and urban planning scholars and a cherished friend of many of the Luskin faculty,” wrote Dean Gary Segura in a memo about Wachs’ passing to the Luskin School community.

Throughout his five decades of service to the University of California — which included teaching and serving in top research and leadership posts at both UCLA and UC Berkeley — Wachs earned a reputation as a world-class scholar and expert in the field of transportation planning. He garnered numerous accolades and academic awards.

Wachs was a prolific author, writing and collaborating on more than 160 articles and four books on relationships between transportation, land use and air quality, and the use of performance measurement in transportation planning. He also was interested in many related aspects and social issues, including professional ethics, aging, the environment and finance.

He came to UCLA in 1971 as an associate professor in a newly founded Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and Wachs was widely known as an outstanding teacher and caring mentor. In the wake of his death, numerous colleagues, former students and friends have shared memories and tributes that will be collected on a page of remembrances over the coming weeks.

Among one generation of planners influenced directly by Wachs is Brian Taylor, who studied under Wachs as an urban planning doctoral student at UCLA Luskin.

“The number of students who studied under Marty is legion,” said Taylor, professor of public policy and urban planning at the Luskin School and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, which was founded by Wachs. “It’s just a veritable who’s who in the area of transportation policy and planning.”

Wachs’ dedication to students and colleagues included supporting their work and aspirations before, during and long after their studies.

“He was a mentor to people who did and did not study with him,” Taylor recalled. “He’s the person that we went to … late in our careers for advice about things.”

“He clearly enjoyed the role of teacher,” said Chris Tilly, professor and current chair of urban planning at UCLA. “I can’t think of how many times I walked past his office and heard him listen carefully, then offer thoughtful advice to a student, whether an undergrad, a [master’s of urban and regional planning], or a Ph.D. student — not your typical emeritus.” 

Tilly also described Wachs as an “influential person who built institutions, organized things and people, and made change. He did much to build our department. We have all lost someone who greatly enriched our lives.”

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning and the former chair of urban planning, said, “Marty was a giant in the field of transportation, someone who early on set the stage for the advancement of transportation planning and policy and who kept contributing to it till now.” She added, “For me, Marty was also an inspiring mentor and role model, a trusted friend, and a wonderful colleague and collaborator. I will miss him dearly.”

At the time of his death, Wachs was collaborating and consulting with colleagues on research, working on papers, actively mentoring students and looking forward to attending a socially distanced game of his beloved L.A. Dodgers, said Taylor, noting that Wachs was also a longtime UCLA basketball season ticketholder.

Taylor described Wachs as a first-class scholar, an exemplary teacher and a caring person. “He was an extraordinarily kind and generous person. … That’s just who he was. He was a true mensch.”

Wachs was deeply committed to public service and over his career served on advisory boards and commissions at the local, state and national levels, including the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the U.S. Department of Transportation. He was a member of professional and honorary societies and served on editorial boards for transportation and planning journals and publications.

In a 2006 tribute to Wachs at his retirement from the University of California, Robert Cervero, a former UCLA urban planning doctoral student and now professor emeritus of City & Regional Planning at UC Berkeley wrote: “I had the privilege of being around Marty as a student and colleague over the past 30 years. It is an unspoken truth by those in the transportation planning academy that Marty is the gold standard on how to be a professor — sharp, decisive and demanding, yet warm, caring and approachable. His profound and lasting influence on the field and today’s generation of transportation planning professionals and scholars is unparalleled.”

In 2000, he served as chair of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. He retired from the University of California in 2006 and later, in 2010, stepped down from a role as senior principal researcher and director of the Transportation, Space and Technology Program at Rand Corp. in Santa Monica.

More recently, Wachs was a member of the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group and, in 2016, he was chosen to serve as chair of a design commission for the famed “gateway to New York,” the Port Authority Bus Terminal of New York.

His honors included a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowships, a UCLA Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award, the Pyke Johnson Award (twice, four decades apart) for the best paper presented at an annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board and the Carey Award for service to that board. He also was named a Distinguished Planning Educator, the highest honor the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning bestows on a faculty member.

Prior to coming to UCLA, Wachs was an assistant professor in civil engineering at Northwestern University and an assistant professor in systems engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from City University of New York in 1963, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees in civil engineering from Northwestern University in 1965 and 1967, respectively.

Wachs also served as a U.S. Army captain. 

He is survived by his wife, Helen; daughter, Faye Wachs; son, Steven Wachs; son-in-law, Navid Ardakani; daughter-in-law, Shirley Tse-Wachs; grandson, Ziya; and granddaughter, Leia.

An online memorial service was held Thursday, April 15, 2021.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, Wachs’ family has requested that those interested in making a donation contribute to the Urban Planning Professors Emeriti Fund, specifying that the gift is being made in his memory. Proceeds from this fund support the Martin Wachs Fellowship in Transportation, which provides financial assistance to promising students studying transportation policy and planning at UCLA.

Gifts can also be made by check payable to the UCLA Foundation. Please include “Fund #90695Q” in the memo field and send the donation to the UCLA Foundation, P.O. Box 7145, Pasadena, CA 91109. 

The Wachs family also encourages gifts to be made in Marty’s memory to other causes or charities of importance to individual donors.

Message From the Dean

Friends and Colleagues:

I am deeply saddened to report that our friend Marty Wachs, professor emeritus of Urban Planning, passed away Sunday night. Marty was a 50-year member of the Luskin and Urban Planning Community since his arrival as an associate professor of Urban Planning in 1971. He spent 25 of those years on the UCLA faculty.

Martin Wachs was a professor, chair (three terms), and the director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA who then spent a decade at UC Berkeley, where he was also chair and director of their Transportation Center. He also held appointments at UIC, Northwestern and Rand. Marty was the author of more than 160 articles and four books on transportation, land use and environment. He was an award-winning teacher and scholar, recognized for his research with a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Rockefeller Foundation fellowships, and he was the winner of a UCLA distinguished teaching award.

He was mentor to an entire generation of urban planners and urban planning scholars and a cherished friend of many of the Luskin faculty.

We are in touch with his wife, Helen, and will share details regarding arrangements as they become available. The Luskin School will plan an appropriate commemoration of his life and work, in consultation with his family, in the near term.

I know you all join me in offering our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

In fellowship,


Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean

Further coverage will follow. The Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA is encouraging people to add remembrances of Martin Wachs in the comments section of a post on the ITS website. Email tributes also may be sent to

Alumni Notes


Norma Edith García-Gonzalez BA ’95, MA UP ’99 is the new director of Los Angeles County Regional Parks and Open Space District, becoming the first woman and first person of color to serve in this capacity.

As parks director, García-Gonzalez’s position touches all corners of Los Angeles. She is responsible for the department’s operations, including a $232-million budget, more than 2,000 employees, 183 parks, 70,079 acres of parkland, more than 210 miles of trails, five equestrian centers, 14 lakes, 475 sports amenities, 42 swimming pools, 15 wildlife sanctuaries and 10 nature centers that serve as a refuge for more than 200 animals. And then there’s a handful of county-operated arboreta and botanic gardens, outdoor performance venues like the Hollywood Bowl, plus the largest municipal golf system in the nation, which consists of 20 courses.

García-Gonzalez brings 17 years of experience working for the county. During her time as acting director of parks, she led efforts to keep the parks available to Angelenos during the COVID-19 crisis. As director, she will continue to lead the department during emergencies and natural disasters, providing support for communities when gyms, regional facilities and local parks are needed as shelters for residents and livestock.

In 2016, García-Gonzalez helped with an equity ballot measure in L.A. County aimed at directing resources to refurbish park amenities in high-need neighborhoods, particularly in low-income communities of color.

In a Parks and Recreation news release, García-Gonzalez said, “Our parks are the backyard of Los Angeles County residents, and I look forward to leading the department with empathy, a vision for equity, an unwavering commitment in serving our communities and working with the Board of Supervisors to create a pathway for Los Angeles County’s recovery.”



Tim Casey MPA ’77, the retired city manager of Laguna Niguel, kept notes of some of the funnier and most memorable moments throughout his professional journey, always hoping to document those moments in a book. The time is now here.

The Mayor Married Who?” is a fun insider’s look at the daily challenges, unexpected curveballs, occasionally embarrassing failures, and successful triumphs that local elected officials and professional administrators face every day in our city halls and county halls of administration.

Through short stories capturing a 40-year management career, Casey’s sense of humor, passion for public service and compassion for others permeate every chapter.

His work is now available in paperback and digital form through Amazon. The book is also featured among publications from the International City/County Management Association.


After 35 years, Dennis Murata MSW ’84 retired from his role as deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.

Murata was a longtime advocate for underserved communities, as well as cultural and ethnic diversity and inclusion.

After graduating from UCLA, his first county role was psychiatric social worker. In addition to his role as deputy director, he held positions such as acting chief deputy director and served in a leadership role in many of the department’s major initiatives, including implementation of the Mental Health Services Act.

Murata was selected as the Joseph A. Nunn Social Welfare Alumnus of the Year in 2007 at UCLA.


Alumni Accolades Career changes and other updates from the alumni of UCLA Luskin

Formerly with Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, Tina Ahmed MSW ’17 transitioned to the position of psychiatric social worker for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Everado Alvizo BA ’03, MA UP ’08 works as the HIV/STD strategic implementation specialist for Long Beach.

Shakari (Cameron) Byerly MPP ’05, a Ph.D. candidate in UCLA political science, was selected as the Rev. James Lawson Teaching Fellow for UCLA Labor and Workplace Studies during the 2020-21 academic year. She will teach two seminars next year on the dignity and value of Black workers. She also works as managing partner and lead opinion researcher at EVITARUS, an opinion research and strategy consulting services firm.

Shana Charles MPP ’01, Ph.D. ’09 has been awarded tenure
at Cal State Fullerton’s department of health science.

Thomson F. Dryjanski MURP ’19 and Yue Shen MURP ’20 have joined many other alumni as associates at Estolano Advisors, an urban planning and policy firm based in Los Angeles.

Simon Fraser MA UP ’01 is now the director of project management at Hunt Capital.

Matt O’Keefe MPP ’10 started a new position as global vice president of sales for Opower at Oracle Utilities. He is one
of many MPP alums who work in the energy sector, and in utilities in particular.

Congratulations to Naseem Golestani MPP ’19, who is now a regulatory analyst at the California Public Utilities Commission. She is back in California, at the CPUC location in San Francisco, joining two other MPP alumni who hold the same title there: Tom Gariffo MPP ’13 and Jenneille Hsu MPP ’11, Ph.D. ’17.

Moira Kenney MA UP ’91, Ph.D. ’94 is based in the Bay Area and started a new position as network director of California at Unite Us, an organization that standardizes how health and social care providers can communicate and track outcomes together.

Sasha Wisotsky Kergan MA UP ’10 started a new role as data and research unit chief for housing policy at California’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Congratulations to Joanna Mackie MPP ’06, a public health doctoral candidate at University of South Florida. Mackie was promoted to research associate for the Florida Office of Early Learning’s Child Mental Health Project, and she is one of many MPP alums pursuing a doctorate in public health.

Abby McClelland JD ’02, MPP ’12 is now director of analytics and reporting at Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services in Colorado. McClelland advocates for the poor, people with disabilities, immigrants and victims of intimate partner violence. She came to UCLA Luskin with her JD and also earned a master’s in social psychology with a certificate in quantitative methods for behavioral sciences.

In Memoriam: VC Powe A pivotal figure for decades at the Luskin School, Powe oversaw career counseling and programs in which public officials, community leaders and alumni mentor students

By Les Dunseith and Stan Paul

Longtime UCLA Luskin staff member VC Powe, executive director of external programs and career services, died Sept. 16 following complications from a serious illness. She was 66.

Powe BA ’75, MBA ’77 joined the School in 1998 and served in a variety of roles over the years, including director of alumni and government relations. From 1990-97, she worked for the UCLA Alumni Association. Powe also was an adjunct faculty member at Los Angeles City College, where she taught marketing and management.

At the time of her death, Powe, a longtime Culver City resident who was born in Los Angeles, oversaw counseling, internships and fellowships, plus the Bohnett Fellows and Senior Fellows programs, at the Luskin School. Powe, who was widely known on campus simply as VC, was instrumental in developing deep ties to civic leaders. 

“VC Powe was a powerful advocate for the Luskin School, its students and alumni,” Dean Gary Segura said. “She worked tirelessly to draw attention to our excellent students, and she never stopped trying to expand opportunities for them to partner with leading members of the Los Angeles community.”

Segura noted that her work with the Luskin Senior Fellows program connected UCLA Luskin students with elected officials, CEOs and the leaders of nonprofit, educational and philanthropic organizations.

“She paved the pathways for more careers in public affairs than we can count. The Luskin School of Public Affairs lost a bit of its heart this week,” Segura said. “VC will be deeply missed.”

Powe’s death was unrelated to COVID-19. Angelus Funeral Home in Los Angeles made arrangements amid the ongoing pandemic for an Oct. 6 viewing, where friends and family paid their respects.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any gifts in VC’s honor be made to the VC Powe Memorial Fund, which will support UCLA Luskin-wide fellowships, Career Services and the Senior Fellows program. Gifts can also be made by check payable to the UCLA Foundation. Please include “Fund #14300” in the memo field and mail to the UCLA Foundation, PO Box 7145, Pasadena, CA 91109-9903.

Anyone wishing to send cards and other non-perishable items in her memory can address them to VC Powe’s family in care of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, 337 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1656. Please note that on-campus mail delivery is only available via the U.S. Post Office at this time.

A Luskin School memorial will be announced at a later date.

In recognition of her role strengthening civic life in the region, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced that it will adjourn in her honor on Sept. 29. The Los Angeles City Council will also adjourn in her honor that day.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who has longstanding ties to the Luskin School’s leadership programs, called Powe the “perfect combination of supreme competence, kindness and empathy.” 

“VC advocated tirelessly for students and worked to help so many individually,” Kuehl said. “When I was lucky enough to serve as a Regents’ professor, I would have been completely lost without her generous time. She will be deeply missed.”

Associate Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning, noted Powe’s contributions to vital programs such as Senior Fellows and Luskin City Hall Day and her guidance in helping students start their careers.

“It is so hard to imagine our Luskin School without VC. She was the nicest, kindest person, and utterly committed to our school and its alums,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “She did her work with tremendous professionalism and grace, and always with a smile on her face.”

Loukaitou-Sideris added that Powe’s longtime role at the annual commencement was especially memorable.

“I will always remember VC, hidden from the large crowds, steadily guiding us toward one more commencement, orchestrated to perfection,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. 

Powe’s involvement in commencement was also a fond memory for Bill Parent, who recently retired from the Luskin School after serving as an instructor and member of the staff, where he worked alongside Powe for many years.

“My favorite mental image of VC Powe will forever be her standing front and center on the Royce Hall stage at the very end of commencement, smiling radiantly, her arms raised to signal the graduates to rise and go take on the world,” Parent recalled.

Powe’s enthusiastic guidance of UCLA Luskin students and alumni is well-known, but she was equally supportive of staff members such as Caroline Lee, who joined the Luskin School in July 2019 as a career counselor. 

“VC was the most amazing mentor and boss,” said Lee, the assistant director of career services. “She is the reason that I felt so comfortable moving across the country to begin a new chapter in my life. She had the unique quality to make people feel at ease and always welcome.”

Lee continued: “I have never seen someone more dedicated to the success of students.” 

Her contributions were many, but Powe’s success with the Senior Fellows program stands out to many as a signature accomplishment. Before she took over, Parent recalled, the fledgling Senior Fellows program was “pretty weak tea,” but that did not deter Powe.

“Year-by-year, fellow-by-fellow, student-by-student, event-by-event, VC nurtured the program into a rewarding honor for scores of fellows and hundreds of students, a centerpiece of engagement for the Luskin School and UCLA in the world of public leadership,” Parent said. 

Past and present fellows include elected officials, corporate CEOs, government leaders, entrepreneurs, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, prominent educators and numerous public servants with ties to the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. 

Powe was adept at matching the expectations of students to what fellows could reasonably offer as mentors, then maintaining contact and paying attention to the details to make things work, Parent said. This approach led to similar success with the Bohnett Fellows program and a wide range of internship programs under Powe’s guidance. 

“Near as I could tell, VC’s strongest faith was in the power of education — as a teacher, an administrator, and as a lifelong student of management and leadership,” Parent said. “She believed in UCLA. She believed in the Luskin School and the missions of our three graduate departments. In other words, she believed deeply in us. She dedicated her career, as a vocation, to helping every one of us succeed.”

Powe was also known as someone who went out of her way to welcome new additions to the Luskin School.

“When I first came back to UCLA in 2015, one of the first people who took me under her wing was VC,” recalled longtime elected official Zev Yaroslavsky, a UCLA alumnus who is now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the Luskin School. “Her engaging smile, understated demeanor, intense commitment to our students, soothing voice, and total embrace of me let me know that I was back home.”

Yaroslavsky recalled that during his time as a public official he came to know Powe as UCLA Luskin’s emissary. 

“She came to meetings in my office, asked for advice on how to place more students in jobs, and proselytized me on the great work being done at Luskin,” Yaroslavsky said of Powe’s relentless efforts to advance the School and its students. “She was preaching to the converted.”

Former colleagues across the UCLA campus recalled some of Powe’s other contributions. Keith Parker, a former assistant vice chancellor of government and community relations, said Powe was a friend and colleague for more than 25 years.

“She was someone that always offered a smile, extended a helping hand and took a moment to let you know that she cared about you,” Parker said. “I always told her VC stood for ‘Very Caring.’”

In the 1990s, when Powe was working for the UCLA Alumni Association, outreach to alumni of African American descent was a key focus. “She developed a number of successful outreach programs that brought alums back to UCLA as engaged, supportive alumni,” Parker said. “She worked on the initial Summer Youth Employment Program that brought low-income high school students to UCLA for not only employment experiences, but also exposure to the benefits of higher education.” 

After she moved over to the Luskin School, Powe was the principal partner with UCLA Government and Community Relations in the annual School of Public Affairs Day at City Hall during which UCLA Luskin graduate students visit with the mayor, council members and department heads for the City of Los Angeles. 

Those meetings focus on an important issue facing the city each year, and the students subsequently produce a white paper with well-researched recommendations, Parker said. “The City Hall Day programs could not have happened without VC.”

Powe’s career history in the late 1970s and 1980s includes employment at May Co., as well as positions in advertising and marketing at the Los Angeles Times. She worked for five years with Inroads, helping to produce business seminars, and she taught business economics at the junior high school level for two years.

She was a former United Way/Kellogg Training Center certified volunteer trainer, a member of the Southern California Leadership Network and a volunteer for the UCLA Alumni Association’s scholarship selection programs. 

She held professional certifications in Organization and Human Resource Development (sponsored by the American Society for Training and Development) and Online Teaching from UCLA Extension. 

Powe was preceded in death by her mother, Vivian Carrell (Burbridge) Hines. She is survived by her father, Bolden Eugene Hines; her husband, Keith Powe; and three sisters, Brenda Kelly, Roberta Lecour and La Lita Green.

Friends and former colleagues of VC Powe are encouraged to contribute their reminiscences for an online tribute page by commenting on the UCLA Luskin Facebook page or by emailing

Message From the Dean

My Friends:

It is with tremendous sadness that I share with you the terrible news that our colleague and friend, VC Powe, passed away suddenly overnight. Her husband reached out to us this morning.

VC was a pivotal figure in the history of the School of Public Affairs. She has been with the School since shortly after its founding, and with UCLA for 30 years! She advised a generation of Luskin grads. As executive director of external programs and career services, VC oversaw counseling, internships and fellowships, the Bohnett Fellows Program and the Senior Fellows Program, and she developed long and deep ties to the community and its leadership — political, civic and philanthropic. In my four years as Dean, as I have traveled around Los Angeles and its institutions, there is no single name associated with the School more widely known and more favorably commented upon than VC’s. She was a passionate advocate for our students and alums. She will be deeply missed.

I will share more details when they are available, including arrangements. In the interim, we will reach out to her husband Keith on behalf of the School.

With great sadness…


Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean

A longer remembrance of VC Powe will be published soon.

Luskins Honored as UCLA Alumni of the Year University also recognizes Bill Coggins MSW '55 with award for community service

The UCLA Award for Community Service was awarded to Wilfred “Bill” Coggins MSW ’55.

Meyer and Renee Luskin, namesakes and major benefactors of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, have been recognized as the 2020 Edward A. Dickson Alumni of the Year, UCLA’s highest alumni honor.

The university’s Alumni Association also honored Wilfred “Bill” Coggins MSW ’55 with this year’s UCLA Award for Community Service, which recognizes alumni who have worked for the enrichment of others and the betterment of their communities.

The Luskins are entrepreneurs, philanthropists and lifelong friends of UCLA.

“Together, Renee and Meyer have shaped UCLA’s greatness for nine decades, transforming UCLA through their many gifts benefiting students, families, communities and institutions around the globe,” the Alumni Association said in announcing the award.

Meyer Luskin earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1949, then went on to launch Scope Industries, which recycles bakery waste to make an ingredient in animal feed. Renee Luskin earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1953.

“The Luskins have transformed their success with an extraordinary generosity of spirit and resources to help UCLA impact countless lives,” the association said.

In 2019, the Luskins were awarded the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest honor. At a reception at the university conference center bearing their name, Chancellor Gene Block said, “What drives Meyer and Renee is precisely what drives UCLA: a desire to solve society’s biggest challenges and to create opportunity for all through education and research.”

Coggins was honored for his decades of stewardship of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center, which helps families achieve academic and personal success, the Alumni Association said.

Amid the unrest of 1960s Los Angeles, Kaiser Permanente hired Coggins, an Army veteran, Fulbright scholar and psychiatric social worker, to develop a program that would meet the social and emotional needs of the Watts neighborhood.

“Coggins established trust with the community to create an organization that serves as an essential mental health and educational resource,” the association said.

“Bill Coggins has been called the heart and soul of the center, which continues to thrive due to his creative and thoughtful leadership that benefited generations of Watts residents,” it said.

Coggins, who retired as the center’s executive director in 1998, has been inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction. In 2018, he became the first recipient of the UCLA Luskin Social Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award.

The UCLA Alumni Awards have recognized distinguished Bruins since 1946. This year’s honorees were announced in the spring; a celebration of their achievements will be planned at a later date.

Read more about the 2020 UCLA Alumni Awards.

Alumni Notes Urban Planning alumni provide leadership in El Monte and Cincinnati; a '96 MSW and triple Bruin oversees the L.A. County Office of Education

El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero MA UP ’01, JD ’01 and City Manager Alma Martinez BA ’01, MA UP ’13.


El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero MA UP ’01, JD ’01 and City Manager Alma Martinez BA ’01, MA UP ’13 reflected on how their UCLA Luskin education helped shape their respective paths and prepared them for careers in government office.

The two alumni apply the skills they developed as graduate students in urban planning to make collaborative decisions to solve problems and maximize the well-being of the residents of their San Gabriel Valley city.

After earning degrees in sociology and political science from UCLA as an undergraduate, Martinez returned to earn her master’s in urban planning at UCLA Luskin.

“I knew I wanted to work with the faculty in the department,” Martinez said. As an undergraduate, then-faculty member Leo Estrada, who died in 2018, had encouraged her to pursue a graduate degree in urban planning, and he became an important mentor during her time in the program.

Looking back, Martinez’s Luskin School education “taught [her] to look at planning and development from a holistic point of view — not only how they affect the city itself but the surrounding communities as well.”

She keeps that holistic perspective in mind as she makes decisions as city manager that she knows will affect thousands of people.

Martinez said the interdisciplinary nature of the UCLA Luskin program gave her “the ability to shift priorities and understand the immediate needs of the community and approach it from a point of view of proactiveness and compassion.”

Quintero received his undergraduate degree in political science from UC Riverside, where he served as student body president

and president of the statewide University of California Student Association.

“I knew I wanted to have a life of public service,” Quintero recalled.

Being able to earn a dual degree from UCLA Luskin and the UCLA School of Law made for an appealing combination when he sought out graduate education.

“While the joint degree was a challenging academic experience to balance, the faculty were amazing and helped me get through as a first-generation student,” he said.

Looking back, Quintero said the joint-degree program made him a more well-rounded student.

“The experience and training that I received at UCLA were essential to what I believe to be good decision-making,” he said.

Quintero was elected in December 2009 as mayor of El Monte. He and Martinez have been working closely together since Martinez was elected city manager two years ago.

“I’ve always aspired to have a strong, collaborative relationship with the city manager, and I finally have that,” Quintero said. “I have a city manager that I can collaborate with at a very high level, and I enjoy our intellectual conversation.”

Having a city manager with a similar academic background creates “a wonderful environment for collaboration.”

Any advice for current UCLA Luskin graduate students?

“Be bold, develop relationships and pursue their passion,” Quintero recommended.

Because planners populate many different departments of city organizations, he recommends that students “go out and find what niche they would like to be involved in. Cities need good and experienced planners who can shape policy at a much higher level.” — Zoe Day


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, UCLA Luskin alumni across the world stepped up to lead their communities through an unprecedented crisis. It’s just that Debra Duardo’s community happens to be bigger than most.

Duardo is a triple Bruin. She received her undergraduate degree in women’s studies in 1994, then got an MSW at UCLA Luskin in 1996 before going on to a Ph.D. in education in 2013.

As superintendent since 2016 of the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), Duardo has oversight of 80 school districts and more than 2 million preschool and school-age children. LACOE is the country’s largest regional educational agency. Her 30-year career in the Los Angeles Unified School District included positions in health and human services and academic counseling.

During the health crisis, Duardo’s proactive communication was credited with preparing Los Angeles schools to respond quickly in the face of a rapidly shifting landscape. She had the foresight in February to lay contingency plans for school districts to transition to online learning and continue essential services, doing so at a time when fewer than five cases had been confirmed in Los Angeles County.


The charge for every graduate of the Luskin School is the same: Be a change agent and bring solutions to your community’s most pressing issues. For Sara Sheets MA UP ’97 that has meant supporting urban community development in her home state of Ohio for over 20 years.

First making her way to Los Angeles via Teach for America, she taught elementary school for two years. The experience of educating students who lived in underserved neighborhoods beset by a lack of quality housing, rampant crime and unequitable access to food and transportation inspired Sheets to change course. UCLA Luskin’s focus on social justice and community development drew her to enroll as a Master of Urban Planning student.

Upon graduation, Sheets took her UCLA Luskin training and hands-on experience back home to Ohio.

Initially, she worked in community development, seeking to revitalize once-neglected areas of Cincinnati. Currently, she is a loan officer at the Cincinnati Development Fund, supporting real estate lending in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods in attempts to bring affordable housing and new businesses to those parts of town that have been struggling.

She said she is especially proud of Cincinnati’s tremendous growth in the decade after the 2008 Great Recession.

More recently, in the face of COVID-19, that growth was threatened, and Queen City tenants have been counting on Sheets’ leadership and creative thinking more than ever. She is working extensively with small business owners and other borrowers in Cincinnati to help them pay rent, pay their workers, and keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic.

Her initiative quickly turned into a statewide effort to support other businesses and borrowers across Ohio, including with groups like the Cincinnati Development Fund.

“Even though it has been 23 years since graduation, I feel incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to attend UCLA,” Sheets said. “I remember feeling consistently inspired by my professors — Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Jackie Leavitt, Allan Heskin — as well as my fellow classmates who came to UCLA with rich personal and professional backgrounds and a deep commitment to equity.”

Although Sheets said she often misses Los Angeles, “I also love the benefits of living in a smaller city and being able to contribute in large and small ways to my community.”


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