UCLA advocate and alumnus Xiutleth Santibanez finds refuge in his favorite place on campus: the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden. (photo by Jonathan Van Dyke)
Tucked deep within the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, Xiutleth Santibanez is home, wrapped in his UCLA oasis, a place that made him comfortable to reach achievements he dreamed about for years, and instill a confidence in life he wishes to pass forward to the next generation.
“It hasn’t changed,” he said as he walked the winding pathways within the garden. “You can still see all the etchings on the trees students made. If anything describes me, it’s the chaos of this garden, but with so much beauty. People will say, ‘There’s just leaves and dead trees.’ But those trees are dormant, and there is something alive here.”
Santibanez always wanted to go to this university. And since graduating from UCLA, he has become an active voice for the university and higher education, traveling as far as Washington D.C. to have his voice heard.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has plenty of awards and memorabilia in her office, including a piece from UCLA. (photo by Jonathan Van Dyke)
When Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl left Hollywood behind and moved forward toward a new life of public service, she only had one institution in mind for a reboot: UCLA.
No matter what has happened in her life since being accepted to the university in the late 1950s, she has never strayed too far from connecting to the Bruins.
“I only wanted to go to UCLA,” she said. “When I was a child actor, nobody in my family had gone to college. I actually only applied to UCLA, I didn’t apply anywhere else. I was accepted with honors. And for $58 a semester, I got a full four-year, or actually as it turned out, five-year education.”
New UCLA Government and Community Relations Senior Executive Director Richard Benbow III talks at the recent Project SPELL graduation. (photo by Jonathan Van Dyke)
This is not to say that Richard Benbow III did not enjoy the cable television business — as an avid sports fan, he more than relished his roles with DirecTV and Time Warner Cable. However, it’s been hard for him not to notice the change in tenor of the conversations he has out in the public when he mentions his advocacy for UCLA.
“Higher education was something instilled in me early on and it’s something I can get behind,” he said. “When you say UCLA, people light up.”
Still, Benbow, who started his new position in UCLA Government and Community Relations as Senior Executive Director earlier this year, hasn’t minded leaving behind those questions of why someone’s cable box isn’t working right.
Bonnie Faherty and Edward Feldman have been UCLA advocates since the inception of the program. (photo by Jonathan Van Dyke)
Bonnie Faherty and Edward Feldman were a match made in advocacy heaven well before they embarked on a marriage of 30 years.
They have given all they can back to the people, places and institutions that have shaped them —for many years prioritizing UCLA.
So at a political dinner in East Los Angeles during the late 1970s, there was a serendipitous moment that would put two civically passionate people together, and little did they know, for the rest of their lives.
A champion for the environment and higher education, California Sen. Fran Pavley will be finishing up her legislative career this year. (photo by Jonathan Van Dyke)
“Right time, right place,” is a mantra California Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) mentions often when reflecting on her multitude of years in public service, but there is no doubting that a strong conviction and equal passion is what ultimately resulted in a storybook political career.
Years ago, 1982 precisely, Pavley found herself as the first ever Mayor of Agoura Hills. Her passion, especially about the environment and smart urban planning, had guided her to the top of her town.
“Education, participation, government — making a difference was just sort of a natural fit,” she said, reflecting on a political career that is coming to a close this year.
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson examines an event badge that brings back memories about his California Assembly District Inauguration ceremony that took place at UCLA’s Royce Hall. (photo by Jonathan Van Dyke)
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson was once that kid in the audience — antsy and uninterested.
Sure, his upbringing included plenty of civic engagement. His father coached youth sports and stayed active in the community. Wesson remembers passing out flyers as a kid in Cleveland, Ohio in support of Charles Stokes, the first African American mayor of a major city.
“My family, historically, we were engaged,” Wesson said. “It was at a time when we had a lot of civic courses and social studies. It was a way to connect with local governments and what have you.”
And yet, it wasn’t until he went to college, and still then, Wesson often found himself in the crowd, looking for an exit strategy. Then one day, his fraternity was hosting special speaker: Northern California’s first black Congress member, Ron Dellums.