Perhaps the only person whose passion for UCLA rivals that of the chancellor is his wife. In her role as associate of the chancellor, Carol Block has advocated for and recognized staff, supported students who face distinct challenges, empowered women leaders on campus, cheered on women’s athletic teams, hosted student recitals and served as a volunteer at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. What she hasn’t yet decided is what’s next. But she’s grateful to have another year to think about it and continue her work at UCLA.

Arriving at UCLA, what surprised you the most?

I was amazed by how willing everyone was to help me settle in and adjust. It was completely new for me, because when Gene was provost at the University of Virginia, I was focused on working full time and raising our children.

To you, what is it that makes UCLA special?

The dedication of the people who work here. People take ownership of the university and really care about one another. Many alumni come back or stay after graduation and work here for decades. I think that connection, that commitment makes a difference.

Coral Von Zumwalt
Mrs. Block in the Chancellor’s Residence in September; below: the associate of the chancellor cites hosting student music recitals as one of the highlights of life in the residence.

What will you miss the most?

I am really going to miss hosting the staff events that I initiated — especially the student music recitals at the residence. This was the first program I started. I love that it brings people together.

You built an entirely new partnership role for the chancellor’s spouse. Was that intentional? What challenges did you face?

You don’t get any training to be the associate of the chancellor! I knew that I wanted to do the student recitals; many of the other programs evolved over time and came from staff recommendations. The idea for the women’s leadership luncheons came from someone in the chancellor’s office, and attendees suggested we expand beyond staff to include faculty leaders to improve networking opportunities. The staff assembly has been my partner in organizing the outings to women’s athletic events and “Outdoors with Mrs. Block.” I thought it was important to support the women’s teams, because they weren’t getting as much focus as other sports — and we have many women’s teams that have won NCAA championships.

What are you most proud of from your time in Westwood?

My intention was to embrace staff, and I think I accomplished that. And I know people like to attend the recitals, because we have a little reception afterward. People don’t want to leave!

If you were to come back years from now and could visit only one spot on campus, what would it be, and why?

I’d like to come back to the chancellor’s residence, because I have spent so many hours there — it has become a special place for us, our home. Built in 1930, the residence demands constant care. I hope that an endowment can be created to ensure there will be sufficient resources to maintain this wonderful landmark for future generations of Bruins.

Talk about a student you met who was particularly memorable.

Students who need a little extra help have always been special to me. We attended the graduation ceremony a few times for students who are parents, and I remember this one young, single mom who graduated while taking care of her young daughter. The last I heard, she had graduated from law school. I still have a picture of her with her daughter, both dressed in caps and gowns. At the ceremony for parents, the kids get to wear regalia and walk with their parents — it’s a lovely family affair.

Read more from UCLA Magazine’s Fall 2023 issue.