Ludwig “Larry” Lauerhass Jr., a UCLA librarian emeritus in the history department, a triple UCLA alumnus and a philanthropist known for his passion for diverse Latin American cultures, died Dec. 29 at his home in Brentwood. He was 84.
Lauerhass was born in 1935 in Asheville, North Carolina. The grandson of German immigrants and the son of an aspiring philologist and a famous silent movie actress, he had a wide range of intellectual interests — from Brazilian history, culture and literature to American national identity and the atomic experience of postwar Japan.
“Larry leaves an extraordinary legacy in the humanities and social sciences for the UCLA Library, not only as a librarian and a collector, but as a teacher, historian and role model for subject matter specialists,” said Virginia Steel, Norman and Armena Powell university librarian. “His Latin American collections, in particular the Brazilian collections at UCLA, will benefit students, faculty and anybody interested in these histories for generations to come.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1957 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he came to UCLA and completed a master of arts degree in Latin American studies in 1959, a Ph.D. in history in 1972 and a master’s degree in library science in 1976.
Lauerhass spent several years as UC Riverside’s first Latin American historian. In 1968, he became UCLA Library’s Latin American bibliographer, helping to build one of the country’s great Latin American collections. Over the course of 24 years as UCLA’s bibliographer and after nearly 30 trips to Latin America, Lauerhass amassed more than 200,000 items related to Latin America, of which nearly 40,000 were printed in or focused on Brazil.
Between 1973 and 2000, he was a member of the teaching faculty in UCLA’s history department. He taught a number of courses on modern Brazilian history, Latin American nationalism, American monuments, and the memory and iconography of Hiroshima and the atomic bomb. He also directed the Latin American Center (1978–84), created and chaired the center’s program on Brazil (1989–94) and coordinated the UC Education Abroad Program in Brazil (1995). Even after retiring from the library in 1993, he continued to teach graduate seminars about American monuments and their role in the development of national identity at the UCLA Center for American Politics and Public Policy in Washington, D.C.
Among his philanthropic contributions to UCLA, Lauerhass established:
- Ludwig Lauerhass Jr. Endowed Collection in Brazilian Studies in UCLA Library, which supports the purchase of rare materials on Brazil, including rare books, photographs, manuscripts and ephemera, held in the Charles E. Young Research Library’s Special Collections
- Lauerhass Hiroshima/Nagasaki Collection Fund in UCLA Library, which contains his personal collection and an endowment for the preservation, augmentation and study of the materials
- Ludwig Lauerhass Endowed Graduate Student Fellowship in Brazilian History
- Robert N. Burr Travel Award for History Students, created in memory of his mentor and close friend, a renowned UCLA professor of Latin American history
- Ludwig Lauerhass Jr. Centennial Scholars Graduate Fellowship in Brazilian Literature in the department of Spanish and Portuguese in the UCLA College, established in 2018.
“Larry’s dedication and generosity have touched many lives and will continue to support new, active engagement with diverse Latin American cultures on campus,” said José Luiz Passos, a professor of Luso-Brazilian literatures and cultures. “He was a joyful person with a large and kind heart, always strongly committed to other cultures.”
Lauerhass’ initial trip to Brazil was by boat in 1963, as one of the first U.S. recipients of a Fulbright Fellowship. He was accompanied by his late son, Larry Jr., and his late wife, Frances, who earned her doctorate at UCLA. Lauerhass’ fascination with Latin American cultures led him to author or edit many essays and bibliographies on Latin American historiography, politics and education. In 1986, he published his most important monograph, “Getúlio Vargas e o triunfo do nacionalismo brasileiro, Belo Horizonte” (Italiana, 1986), focusing on President Getúlio Vargas and Brazilian political nationalism in the 1930s. Turning his attention to postwar Japan, Lauerhauss and scholar Kanae Omura co-authored the manuscript “Remember Hiroshima/Nagasaki: Compelling Images of the Atomic Experience.”
On May 23, 2019, the Consul General of Brazil to Los Angeles recognized Lauerhass as a true friend of Brazil, honoring him with both the National Order of the Southern Cross and the Order of Rio Branco.
Lauerhass is survived by his daughter, Theresa; son-in law, Brad; and his grandchildren, Nicole and Nathaniel.