Longtime staff member VC Powe, executive director of external programs and career services at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, died Sept. 16 following complications from a serious illness. She was 66.
Powe, who earned her bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1975 and her M.B.A. in 1977, joined the Luskin School in 1998 and served in a variety of roles over the years, including director of alumni and government relations. From 1990-97, she worked for the UCLA Alumni Association.
At the time of her death, Powe, a longtime Culver City resident who was born in Los Angeles, oversaw counseling, internships and fellowships at the Luskin School. Powe, who was widely known on campus simply as VC, was instrumental in developing deep ties to civic leaders.
“VC Powe was a powerful advocate for the Luskin School, its students and alumni,” said Gary Segura, dean of the Luskin School. “She worked tirelessly to draw attention to our excellent students, and she never stopped trying to expand opportunities for them to partner with leading members of the Los Angeles community.”
Segura noted that her work with the Luskin Senior Fellows program connected UCLA Luskin students with elected officials, CEOs and the leaders of nonprofit, educational and philanthropic organizations.
“She paved the pathways for more careers in public affairs than we can count. The Luskin School of Public Affairs lost a bit of its heart this week,” Segura said. “VC will be deeply missed.”
In recognition of her role strengthening civic life in the region, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced that it will adjourn in her honor on Sept. 29.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who has longstanding ties to the Luskin School’s leadership programs, called Powe the “perfect combination of supreme competence, kindness and empathy.”
“VC advocated tirelessly for students and worked to help so many individually,” Kuehl said. “When I was lucky enough to serve as a Regents’ professor for a quarter, I would have been completely lost without her generous time. She will be deeply missed.”
Associate Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning, noted Powe’s contributions to vital programs and her guidance in helping students start their careers.
“It is so hard to imagine our Luskin School without VC. She was the nicest, kindest person, and utterly committed to our school and its alums,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “She did her work with tremendous professionalism and grace, and always with a smile on her face.”
Loukaitou-Sideris added that Powe’s longtime role at the annual commencement was especially memorable.
“I will always remember VC, hidden from the large crowds, steadily guiding us toward one more commencement, orchestrated to perfection,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.
Powe’s involvement in commencement was also a fond memory for Bill Parent, who recently retired from the Luskin School after serving as an instructor and member of the staff, where he worked alongside Powe for many years.
“My favorite mental image of VC Powe will forever be her standing front and center on the Royce Hall stage at the very end of commencement, smiling radiantly, her arms raised to signal the graduates to rise and go take on the world,” Parent recalled.
Powe was equally supportive of staff members such as Caroline Lee, who joined the Luskin School in July 2019 as a career counselor.
“VC was the most amazing mentor and boss,” said Lee, the assistant director of career services. “She is the reason that I felt so comfortable moving across the country to begin a new chapter in my life. She had the unique quality to make people feel at ease and always welcome.”
Her contributions were many, but Powe’s success with the Senior Fellows program stands out to many as a signature accomplishment. Before she took over, Parent recalled, the fledgling Senior Fellows program was “pretty weak tea,” but that did not deter Powe.
“Year-by-year, fellow-by-fellow, student-by-student, event-by-event, VC nurtured the program into a rewarding honor for scores of fellows and hundreds of students, a centerpiece of engagement for the Luskin School and UCLA in the world of public leadership,” Parent said.
Past and present fellows include elected officials, corporate CEOs, government leaders, entrepreneurs, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, prominent educators and numerous public servants with ties to the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.
Powe was also known as someone who went out of her way to welcome new additions to the Luskin School.
“When I first came back to UCLA in 2015, one of the first people who took me under her wing was VC,” recalled longtime elected official Zev Yaroslavsky, a UCLA alumnus who is now director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the Luskin School. “Her engaging smile, understated demeanor, intense commitment to our students, soothing voice, and total embrace of me let me know that I was back home.”
Keith Parker, a former assistant vice chancellor of government and community relations, said Powe was a friend and colleague for more than 25 years.
“She was someone that always offered a smile, extended a helping hand and took a moment to let you know that she cared about you,” Parker said. “I always told her VC stood for ‘Very Caring.’”
Powe worked closely with UCLA Government and Community Relations on the annual School of Public Affairs Day at City Hall during which UCLA Luskin graduate students visit with the mayor, council members and department heads for the City of Los Angeles.
“The City Hall Day programs could not have happened without VC,” Parker said.
Powe’s death was unrelated to COVID-19, but amid the ongoing pandemic, the family will be holding a private funeral service. A Luskin School memorial will be announced at a later date.
Powe was preceded in death by her mother, Vivian Carrell (Burbridge) Hines. She is survived by her father, Bolden Eugene Hines; her husband, Keith Powe; and three sisters, Brenda Kelly, Roberta Lecour and La Lita Green.