Monday, March 25

Scientist, activist West passes away

Monday, January 11, 1999

Scientist, activist West passes away

OBITUARY: NPI founder, famed UCLA educator dies of cancer at age

By Angela Sveda

Daily Bruin Contributor

Dr. Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West, professor and chairman of
psychiatry and former director of the Neuropsychiatric Institute at
UCLA, died of metastatic cancer last Saturday. He was 74.

Known as a pioneer in psychiatry, a scholarly author and a civil
rights activist, West’s contributions were broad in scope.

His studies focused on cults, sleep disorders, alcoholism, drug
abuse and violence, among other clinical psychiatric issues. In his
last days, West said that "our mistreatment of our children" was
the most severe problem facing the global community.

Serving as an Air Force physician during the Korean War, West
found American prisoners were wrongfully confessing to crimes,
because of solitary confinement and lack of sleep – not physical
brutality, as previously supposed.

In 1954, at the age of 29, he became professor and head of the
department of psychiatry, neurology and behavioral sciences at the
University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, where he served for 15

Friend and colleague Dr. Chester Pierce, professor emeritus at
Harvard University, met West at the University of Oklahoma and
said, "Wherever he saw a wrong, he tried to correct it."

West was an intense civil rights activist who participated in
sit-ins and was a strong opponent of the death penalty. He filed
amicus curiae briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and served as
court-appointed witness for South African trials concerning
apartheid, without fee. He also examined Jack Ruby, and was one of
four psychiatrists who examined Patricia Hearst.

Margaret Singer, professor emeritus with the department of
psychology at UC Berkeley, knew West since 1951 and was also on the
panel that examined Hearst. She recalled West as a dedicated
physician and a great teacher who trained generations of young
American psychiatrists.

As a lecturer, he was elegant and a great raconteur who told
vivid, unforgettable stories, said Singer.

Born on Oct. 6, 1924, West was the eldest of three children and
was the only son to Albert Jerome West, a Russian immigrant, and
Anna Rosenberg, a Brooklyn piano teacher. After reading "The
Forsyte Saga," his mother gave him the middle name, Jolyon, hence
the nickname "Jolly."

Everyone respectfully called him Jolly because he had a
"terribly wry" sense of humor, recalled close friend Edwin
Shneidman, professor emeritus at UCLA.

West came to UCLA, where he served as chair of the department of
psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences from 1969 to 1989.

As chair, West brought the State Department of Mental Hygiene
together with UCLA’s department of psychiatry, creating the
present-day Neuropsychiatric Institute (NPI). Facing difficulty
brought on by varying regulations between the two departments,
West’s unoffensive persuasiveness got everyone to agree on the
so-called "transfer," noted Sherman Melinkoff, professor emeritus
and former dean of the UCLA School of Medicine.

After the transfer, West continued to broaden the scope of the
faculty by recruiting big names in psychiatry and other areas such
as anthropology to create a "multidisciplinary" approach, said Toby
Cronin, West’s former assistant.

"The beauty of Dr. West was his ability to support the ideas of
his faculty," Cronin said.

Melinkoff, who originally recruited West to UCLA, added, "He was
a man of absolute integrity, great intelligence and learning -
almost saintly compassion for fellow human beings."

Dr. Louis Jolyon West is survived by his wife, Kathryn of Los
Angeles; two daughters, Anne Kathryn, of New York, and Mary
Elizabeth Hawkins of Sacramento; one son, John Stuart, of Seattle
and sister, Nancy Wheeler of St. Paul.Health Sciences

Dr. Louis West, a professor in the UCLA psychology department,
passed away on Jan. 2.

Comments, feedback, problems?

© 1998 ASUCLA Communications Board[Home]

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.