Professor Emeritus Samuel Aroni, a longtime faculty member in the UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design, died April 20 at the age of 94.
From 1981 to 1982, he was the chair of the UCLA Academic Senate, and he served as acting dean of the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning from 1974 to 1975 and again from 1983 to 1985. From 1977 to 1985, he was a member of the Urban Innovations Group, the independent practice arm of the school, prior to its merger with the School of the Arts and Architecture; he served as chairman of the board for two separate stints.
Aroni was born Samuel Cervinschi in Kishinev, Romania, on May 26, 1927, during an era when the region was repeatedly changing hands between Romanian and Russian control. In 1941, after Kishinev fell to the German and Romanian armies, Jews were rounded up and ordered to move into a walled ghetto, an experience Aroni recounted in a testimony posted on the Nizkor Project website. Food, water and electricity were scarce, and of the more than 11,000 Jews in the ghetto, Sam and his immediate family were among the very few who survived.
After emigrating to Palestine in 1944, the family adopted the surname Aroni in memory of Sam’s grandfather Aron, who perished in the Holocaust.
After having had to discontinue his formal education at 14, Sam attended the University of Melbourne in Australia. There, he met Malca Kornfeld, who had been sent by the fledgling Israeli government as an emissary to Melbourne’s Jewish community. The couple wed in 1956, and had two daughters, Ruth and Miriam.
In 1963, the family moved to Berkeley, California, where Aroni earned a master’s degree and doctorate in structural engineering from UC Berkeley while also serving as a teaching fellow there. After serving as an associate professor at San Francisco State College and as a research engineer at the American Cement Corp., he joined the UCLA faculty in 1970, and the family settled in Woodland Hills. He retired from UCLA as a professor emeritus in 1991.
Aroni held a range of leadership positions at UCLA, including director of special academic cooperative projects for International Studies and Overseas Programs, the predecessor of the UCLA International Institute. He mentored generations of UCLA students, both in the classroom and beyond, and he earned numerous honors, including the J. James R. Croes Medal from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
He also became a prolific scholar on the Holocaust, contributing his expertise to Israel and other governments and educational institutions.
Sam is survived by daughters Ruth Aroni and Miriam Aroni Krinsky; son-in-law Glenn Krinsky; granddaughters Sarah and Hannah Krinsky; and grandson-in-law Daniel Novick. In lieu of flowers, his family requests that donations in his memory be made to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum or JDC for Ukrainian Jews.