In December 1999, one of UCLA’s oldest support groups ― Gold Shield, Alumnae of UCLA ― received a surprising gift. It was a crypt owned by Gold Shield member Maida Dullam ’30, who donated it with the idea that the group could sell it and use the money to fund freshman scholarships. And sell it they did, for $150,000.
The selling point? Location. The crypt is in the same mausoleum wall where Marilyn Monroe was laid to rest at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park. Since 2001, proceeds from the sale have enabled Gold Shield to award $90,000 to outstanding freshman students, who are affectionately referred to as Gold Shield’s “crypt scholars.”
The unusual gift is just one highlight in Gold Shield’s 85-year history, which began in the fall of 1936. Twelve young women ― all recent UCLA graduates ― decided to form an organization that would support the university and the community they loved. Members would be selected for their loyal service to UCLA, as well as for outstanding achievements, both professionally and in their communities. One of the group’s first acts, in 1939, was to establish a fund to annually award $150 scholarships to two deserving UCLA undergraduate students.
Today, Gold Shield’s membership has grown to 150, and its assets (held by the UCLA Foundation) have grown to more than $5 million, most of which is invested in endowments. The organization has so far awarded $2.4 million for undergraduate student scholarships through the UCLA Alumni Association, $210,000 for ethnic studies fellowships, $650,000 for the Gold Shield Faculty Prize, $110,000 to UCLA’s Center for Oral History Research, and more than $100,000 for the research and writing of UCLA: The First Century, a comprehensive history of the university that was published in 2011.
Explore the rich history of Gold Shield through a photographic timeline:
From 1952 to 1997, Gold Shield members raised money for the student scholarships by holding elaborate events with names such as “Fun Fiesta” (1952), “Ralph Edwards: This is Your Life” (1962), “Renaissance Revelry” (1982) and “Gold Shield Goes to Paramount” (1997). “Many took place at unique locations,” says Ann Rieber Plauzoles ’67, Gold Shield’s vice president of finance and great-granddaughter of Charles Henry Rieber, UCLA’s first dean of the College of Letters and Science. “My favorite was ‘A Flight to Remember,’ chaired by Pat Hardwick ’52, at the Spruce Goose, at that time on display next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I went as Rosie the Riveter, and my date was Howard Hughes.”
Gold Shield scholars receive money, of course, but they also receive something else ― mentorship. Depending on a scholar’s needs, members have provided anything from career advice to a study-break trip to a local museum.
James Huynh M.A./M.P.H. ’19, a current UCLA doctoral student in community health sciences, received a graduate fellowship from Gold Shield when he arrived on campus in September 2016. “The Gold Shield scholarship experience was so special because of the mentors I got to meet: Karolynne Gee ’56, Karen King ’73 and Ann Plauzoles,” Huynh says. “The three of them were instrumental in advocating for me to be able to receive my scholarship while still working on campus. Karolynne, Karen and Ann’s belief in me as a scholar has helped instill a lot of confidence. I am grateful for their guidance and genuine interest in my development.”
“When I look at Gold Shield today, I am impressed by the way it has developed. The membership has become much more inclusive over the years.”
— Jo Knopoff
Jo Knopoff ’53, a former Gold Shield president and member since 1960, has seen plenty of changes in the organization. “Until recent decades, the board met monthly in the daytime at members’ homes … Most of us did not have paid jobs, so we were able to spend a lot of time on volunteer work. And for many of us, Gold Shield was our primary volunteer activity,” she says. “When I look at Gold Shield today, I am impressed by the way it has developed and changed. The membership has become much more inclusive over the years, with efforts to achieve that goal having started decades ago.”
Knopoff remembers a significant meeting in the early ’80s, when the group invited former UCLA Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy, husband of member Judy Murphy, to speak. The women expected kudos for all of their past accomplishments, Knopoff says, but Chancellor Murphy surprised them by telling them that they could accomplish much more than they already had. “It was rather a shock to hear that,” Knopoff says, “but it got us thinking and talking.”
The result was the creation of the Gold Shield Faculty Prize. First awarded in 1986, the prize recognizes and rewards mid-level faculty who have distinguished records of undergraduate teaching, research and university service. Nominated by their peers, recipients of the prize receive $30,000 in unrestricted funds.
Paul Barber, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, received the Gold Shield Faculty Prize in 2019. Since then, he has remained actively involved with the group by meeting with Gold Shield scholars, giving lectures, working with members on refining the selection process for the prize and choosing subsequent recipients.
Barber says, “Gold Shield was extremely forward thinking to create this award and to use it to spotlight the amazing work that UCLA faculty are doing, not just in their research, but also in the teaching and outreach activities that are such a critical part of fostering the success of students at UCLA. It’s an incredible service that Gold Shield is doing for UCLA.”
Named in 2016 as the first recipient of the UCLA Alumni Association’s Alumni Network of the Year Award, Gold Shield is continually looking forward. Members are working on a brand-new strategic plan, led by current president Diane Hansen ’69, that aims to get every member actively involved in some way.
“We recognized over the past several years that our demographics were changing — new members tended to be younger, most with full-time careers, many with young families and thus less time to devote to volunteer activities [and to daytime meetings],” Hansen says. “We want to ensure that we facilitate members’ ability to contribute in meaningful ways and continue to identify issues and opportunities for relevant Gold Shield involvement at the university.”
Read more from UCLA Magazine's January 2022 issue.