This story is from UCLA Today, a discontinued print and web publication.



Winners’ circle

   Sometimes life has a way of coming full circle. In this case, a full jump circle.

   In 1987, when Jody Spillane was scrounging around the UCLA Surplus warehouse looking for office equipment, she happened upon a piece of UCLA history that may turn into a gold mine for future graduate students in the basic sciences.

   That piece of history is the midcourt center jump circle Picture

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (left) and other former players from UCLA’s storied past rejoined Coach John Wooden (right) in Pauley Pavilion to autograph the jump circle on which many of them played. It will be sold to support doctoral students. 

from the original Pauley Pavilion floor that had been stored away for years until Spillane, a Bruin employee since her student days in the ’70s and currently coordinator for UCLA ACCESS, a graduate student recruitment and placement program, made her find.

    “I came upon it, knew what it was, knew that I wanted it and was actually astounded to see it there,” she said. So she purchased the 12-foot-diameter hunk of hardwood for a nominal amount, knowing that one day it would be of great value to the university. “I bought it because my family and I are alumni, and it really meant a lot to me,” she said.

   Eleven years later, that same chunk of wood, mothballed for years in a garage, has become a lot more than a dusty piece of athletic history. On Sept. 28, it became potentially worth more than $1 million, according to auction experts, money that is destined for the Eureka Endowment, a permanent source of support for the education and training of doctoral students in the biomedical and life sciences.

   At a ceremony organized by Spillane, legendary Coach John Wooden and former Bruin hoopsters gathered in Pauley Pavilion to autograph the circle on which they all played, raising its value and raising awareness for Eureka as well. The signed jump circle will be sold next year to support the endowment.

   The players came for the cause and for Wooden, always a staunch advocate of academics over athletics. Attendees included great names of Bruin past: Hazzard, Abdul-Jabbar, Warren, Shackleford, Wicks, Walton, Lee, Hollyfield, Drollinger, McCarter and many, many others.

   David Meyer, associate dean for graduate studies in the School of Medicine, who spearheaded the Eureka Endowment, says there is a twofold significance to the event.

   “It recognizes the excellence and competence of an entire generation of student athletes, under the leadership of a coach who exhibited inspired, exemplary behavior and performance both on and off the court,” Meyer said. “The event is also the tip-off of a major initiative to promote scientific accomplishments of the next generation of UCLA student scientists under the leadership of gifted and inspirational faculty researchers.”

   To attract the best graduate students, Chancellor Albert Carnesale said it is essential to build such a fund. “UCLA has to compete with older, private universities that have been accumulating endowments for fellowships, not over years or decades, but over centuries, literally  and it’s made the need for philanthropic support more crucial than ever.”

   “It’s a tremendous meeting of the athletic department, the College and the School of Medicine  for all to be connected in an endeavor like this is wonderful,” said Spillane. “I know that Coach Wooden is really behind this  he always said that academics come first. So this is very important and meaningful for him.”

   Abdul-Jabbar and Walton both commended Wooden’s strong emphasis on issues beyond basketball.

   “Understanding that education had to be a part of your life was the best legacy I ever got from Coach Wooden. It’s a gift I cannot repay, but one I’ll acknowledge and give thanks for for the rest of my life,” said Abdul-Jabbar.

    “He was so much more than a basketball coach,” Walton added. “He talked about life, about education and instilled such a level of joy and pride and hope in our lives. His only goal was to make other people’s lives better and he certainly succeeded.”

   “I appreciate the fact that we all love this great university and are proud of the College and the medical school and all the other facilities,” said Wooden. “And I know that all the interest in the Eureka Foundation will help keep it at the level we’d like.”

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