The Tao of John Wooden
Many college coaches will go down in history as being incredibly successful and greatly admired — among them, Alabama’s Bear Bryant, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski.
But UCLA fans know that the most beloved coach in the country — known not only for his athletic success, but also for his impact beyond sports — is John Wooden. Talk to people who knew Wooden, and even those who didn’t, and you’ll see how profoundly his teachings affected them.
Bill Walton ’74 makes no secret of his devotion to Coach. The former Bruin and NBA star realized that Wooden was not just teaching his players the game of basketball, but also the game of life. “He taught us the ultimate skills: how to think, how to dream, how to learn and how to compete,” Walton says.
Meeting Wooden also changed the life of Valorie Kondos Field ’87, the energetic head coach of the UCLA women’s gymnastics team. Affectionately called “Miss Val,” she says that her first attempts at coaching failed miserably because she was too focused on winning. Then she picked up Wooden’s book They Call Me Coach in the UCLA Store.
“It didn’t sound like all this other coach talk I’d heard,” says Kondos Field. “It was filled with a lot of tough love, but honest love. Compassion and discipline. It’s about teaching life’s lessons through the sport that we’re a part of.”
Following Wooden’s example, she built her own original recipe for success, built on passion and love. Kondos Field’s teams have since won seven NCAA titles, and her athletes adore her, including senior Katelyn Ohashi, whose perfect (10.0) floor exercise at the 2019 Collegiate Challenge went viral in January.
Proving that Wooden’s influence reaches well beyond the world of sports, UCLA’s Anderson School of Management is taking the coach’s teachings into a whole new realm. For the Class of 2020, the school kicked off its Leadership Development Program with a two-unit course that introduced students to 12 leadership competencies, as well as to Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. Students also read The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership. Those students who continued on in the program submitted a leadership plan requiring them to map their competencies to the Pyramid.
Further, UCLA Anderson honors an exceptional leader each year with the John Wooden Global Leadership Award for exemplary leadership and service to the community (last year’s winner was Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix), and four M.B.A. students receive $25,000 John Wooden Global Leadership Fellowships.
“The leadership award goes to someone whose management style is value-based leadership of the sort that Coach celebrated,” says Alfred E. Osborne Jr., interim dean, professor and faculty director of the Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “And it goes beyond just the Pyramid of Success, which a lot of people know about, to his various writings about what it is to live a respectful, authentic, productive, constructive and honorable life.”
THE WILLIAMS INSTITUTE ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY LAW AND POLICY
When California’s Proposition 8 on gay marriage came before the Supreme Court in 2013, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that “there are some 40,000 children in California” living with same-sex parents.
In March, Reuters reported on an analysis of polling data that revealed that “an estimated 4.5 percent of U.S. adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and they tend to be younger and poorer than the population at large.”
Even more pivotal than the statistics in the national debate over gay rights is the source: the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law. Directly or indirectly, the institute’s dispassionate dispensation of precise research and informed knowledge has made it the country’s premier think tank on sexual orientation and gender-identity law and public policy.
Governors, state legislators, budget chiefs, agency directors, congressmembers and senators, pundits, judges at the state and federal levels, and other analysts and policymakers across the nation use the institute’s data and constitutional arguments. Its Judicial Education Program provides international, state and federal judges and court personnel with substantive training on legal issues impacting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
Seeing the barriers that disadvantaged students face, UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies partnered with the Los Angeles Unified School District to create solutions.
In 2009, the partners opened the first UCLA Community School on the former site of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Students at the Robert F. Kennedy–UCLA Community School come from largely Hispanic and Asian immigrant communities in the Pico-Union and Koreatown neighborhoods. Central to the school’s success, says math teacher Maria Nakis, is its personalized approach. Each student is part of an advisory class that meets with the same teacher three times a week for two years.
Teachers at the RFK-UCLA Community School work to ensure that students are qualified to apply to a University of California campus. They steer them toward college-prep classes and make sure they know the deadlines for entrance exams. Each year, UCLA faculty, staff and students provide the school with more than 16,000 hours of mentoring and tutoring. As a result of these efforts, the number of students who enroll in college is rising steadily: In 2014, 74 percent of the graduating class attended college; in 2017, 86 percent did.
In 2017, UCLA began partnering with the declining Horace Mann School in inner-city Los Angeles. The approach at Mann-UCLA Community School is similar to that at RFK-UCLA, with an emphasis on mentoring and college preparation.
Medicine on the Move
MOBILE CLINIC PROJECT
On a Wednesday evening near the corner of Sycamore and Romaine in West Hollywood, the contrast is stark — fresh-faced UCLA students in bright-blue T-shirts chatting up the mostly homeless, indigent men and women lined up on the sidewalk. The clients of the volunteer, student-run Mobile Clinic Project, hardened by their circumstances, are clearly glad to be there. In a society that typically shuns them, they are being attended to, listened to and treated with respect.
Every Wednesday for nearly two decades, under a physician’s supervision, UCLA medical, public health, law and undergraduate students have created a makeshift clinic out of a box truck leased from the university. Tarps and poles create partitions for exams that require privacy. Over-the-counter and prescription medications stock a makeshift pharmacy operating out of the back of the truck. In a nonjudgmental environment, the students offer basic medical care, legal and social advocacy, and compassionate connections.
The program began in 2000, when the Hollywood Food Coalition — which serves free meals to the area’s homeless and transient population — spoke to a UCLA public health faculty member about the need for health care among its clients. After conducting a needs assessment, two public health students recruited physicians and medical, law and undergraduate students to assist. Over the years, the program has expanded to include three locations in Santa Monica, including a homeless shelter and a mental health center.
UCLA volunteers greet the clients who turn out for the clinic; take their medical histories; treat ailments such as cuts, infections and coughs; dispense medication and basic supplies; offer counsel on social or legal issues; and facilitate referrals. For a largely ignored population, though, the tangible services are often secondary to the opportunity to be heard. And the students gain an insight into humanity that no classroom could dispense.
Heroine in the Hood
On the meanest streets of Los Angeles, she walks freely. A shoulder to cry on. An outstretched hand to a better life. They call her “Little Mama,” and for young men and women trapped in the gang life, UCLA anthropologist, adjunct professor and internationally renowned gang expert Jorja Leap ’78, M.S.W. ’80, Ph.D. ’88 is not an academic. She’s a lifesaver.
This mother of a teenage daughter and wife of a retired LAPD captain has been studying gangs up close and personal for almost 20 years, and she’s achieved an almost legendary reputation among gang members, who regard her as family. Leap is the author of Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me About Violence, Drugs, Love, and Redemption and Project Fatherhood: A Story of Courage and Healing in One of America’s Toughest Communities.
“I felt safe as a white woman trying to work and help in the community,” she says. “I was not seen as a threat, nor was I seen as part of the gang wars. Gang members do not want to kill outsiders — they want to kill each other. It’s tragic, and it’s true.”
In 2011, Leap was named one of Los Angeles Magazine’s Action Heroes for her policy work and gang intervention efforts in the Los Angeles area. In 2012, the magazine named her one of the “50 Most Influential Women in Los Angeles.”
“If these young people had been born on the Westside, or Encino, or Palos Verdes, they would have grown up to be lawyers and accountants and anthropologists and professors,” Leap concludes. “They’re us. They’re our children. And we need to understand that.”
Screen Kings and Queens
FILM & TV DIRECTORS
Some of the most indelible stories of our time have been brought to screens big and small by UCLA alumni who have challenged the conventions of film and television as we know them.
With The Godfather, Apocalypse Now and so many other films, Francis Ford Coppola M.F.A. ’67 became a poster boy for New Hollywood, a movement that brought about unconventional ideas and infused contemporary filmmaking with new complexity and psychological depth.
Ava DuVernay’s career has been full of firsts. These include being the first female black director to have a film nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award (Selma) and the first woman of color to direct a big-budget feature (A Wrinkle in Time). And that’s not even counting TV, where she collaborated with Oprah Winfrey and created, executive-produced and directed groundbreaking series that include Queen Sugar and When They See Us.
Since winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Milk, Dustin Lance Black ’96 has become one of the country’s most respected LGBTQ role models. The son of a Mormon missionary in Texas, he learned firsthand how hard it can be to be gay in America. A founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Black was a key player in the repeal of California’s Proposition 8, and his play 8, based on the trial that overturned it, has been staged around the country. Black hopes his miniseries for ABC, When We Rise, which tells the story of the modern LGBTQ movement, will help with the continuing march toward justice for all.
Jackie Robinson was always a fighter, but he never planned to become a living symbol of the fight against racial injustice. His breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball was not only one of the greatest acts of societal defiance in the 20th century, but also one of the most influential events in the fight for equal rights.
Born in Georgia in 1919, Robinson attended high school and junior college in Pasadena before matriculating at UCLA, where he became the first athlete to letter in four sports.
Robinson served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army during World War II, but he never saw combat: He was arrested and court-martialed during boot camp for refusing to move to the back of a segregated bus. Ultimately cleared of the charges and honorably discharged, he spent 1945 playing in the Negro Baseball League and was later approached by Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey about playing for the team.
In 1947, Robinson joined the Dodgers as the first African American to play in the major leagues since 1889. He earned Rookie of the Year honors, but the award does not define that first season. What’s remembered are the abuses Robinson endured — from fans, from fellow players, from the media — and the extraordinary poise and strength he demonstrated as he stoically went about doing his job. Robinson was supported along the way by his wife, Rachel ’42, a fellow Bruin whom he met at UCLA.
After a career in baseball, Robinson became an activist for social change, working to create opportunities for minorities as a coffee company executive and helping to establish the Freedom National Bank, owned and operated by African Americans. Nine days before his death in 1972, Robinson called out baseball for not yet hiring an African-American manager. Jackie Robinson kept fighting right until the end.
Learning From the Past
Preparing for natural disasters is an ongoing pursuit — new developments in nature often move at the same speed as new technological advancements. But with disasters as large as earthquakes, time is of the essence.
Scott Brandenberg, professor of civil and environmental engineering, studies how earthquakes impact the built environment. His work includes the creation of an international database on liquefaction, which occurs when soil flows like a liquid and causes land — as well as the buildings on it — to slide. Part of his goal is to standardize the science of liquefaction. “We’ve never really had a database that was available to the whole community,” he says.
The use of city-spanning earthquake data is growing, as UCLA researchers develop plans to integrate systems and earthquake consciousness into city operations. Ken Hudnut, a geophysicist for Risk Reduction at the U.S. Geological Survey, advises the L.A. Mayor’s Office of Resilience. He knows that when disasters strike, good data and good preparation result in less chaos.
Not only does UCLA’s work impact those outside Los Angeles, but researchers’ work here also draws upon resources from outside the community. Engineering Professor Ertugrul Taciroglu, who studies earthquake effects on urban infrastructure, uses images from Google to visually analyze infrastructures and develop simulation models.
Practitioners outside UCLA say that the work achieved on campus is making a difference. Ronald T. Eguchi ’74, M.S. ’75, president and CEO of ImageCat, oversees the creation of earthquake maps and hazard exposure models for buildings and infrastructure.
“Without [the UCLA] research, I don’t think we’d be able to come up with these quantitative assessments,” Eguchi says.