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Retirement? Not on his horizon


It's been more than 70 years since he taught third-graders in Baltimore, Md. Yet Melvin "Mef" Seeman still remembers the name of the kid who gave him the most trouble. "Joseph Dudley," Seeman said, laughing. "He would always get out of line and talk when he wasn't supposed to."

A professor emeritus of sociology, Seeman has always had his hand in education, from the time he was a 19-year-old "second-class substitute teacher" in 1937 to his current job as special assistant to the UCLA vice chancellor of academic personnel. At 90, he has worked for five vice chancellors — Hal Horowitz, Dick Sisson, Norm Abrams, Donna Vredevoe and, currently, Tom Rice.

The work is challenging, but Seeman enjoys it. For example, his colleagues will often seek his opinion on policy issues or complicated personnel cases. Last year, Seeman helped establish a biannual newsletter for faculty, News from Academic Personnel, and has been helping to improve the mentoring process for younger faculty.

"Mef's main virtue isn't longevity; his main virtue is that he has extraordinarily good judgment," Rice said. "So we're always interested in his take, but it never hurts that he has this historical perspective as well."

"Mef is an inspiration to all of us who work and interact with him," said Marsha Fractor, manager of the Academic Personnel Office. "We look to him for his good counsel and wisdom that he brings to all situations in the office."

The youngest of five children, Seeman was born in 1918 to Polish parents who came to America right before the start of World War I.

"I'm not sure how I got my nickname, but it comes from my childhood," he said. "My next older brother couldn't say 'Melvin' or 'Melv.' So 'Melv' became 'Mef.' But no one who really knows me calls me Mel."

The Seeman family moved quite a bit during the Depression, and young Mef attended several different schools. He met his future wife, Alice, while both were students at Maryland State Teachers College.

A conscientious objector during World War II, Seeman performed civilian public service in Coshocton, Ohio, before returning to Baltimore and receiving his B.A. from Johns Hopkins University. He and Alice married in 1944; both went on to receive doctoral degrees in sociology and psychology, respectively, from Ohio State University.

The couple and their two young children, Paul and Teresa, moved to Los Angeles in 1959, where Seeman had been hired by UCLA as an associate professor. Today, Seeman is not the only family member working at UCLA — Teresa is a professor in the Geffen School of Medicine's Division of Geriatrics.

Seeman continues to publish his research and recently received the American Sociological Association's Cooley-Mead Award for lifetime contribution to social psychology.

He retired in 1988 but immediately came back at the request of then-Executive Vice Chancellor Murray Schwartz to help in the vice chancellor's office. That was 20 years ago, and Seeman's services are needed as much as ever.

"Vice Chancellor Rice asked me to serve again next year. So it's not over yet," he said, a gleam in his eye. "We'll see what events transpire."

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