UCLA faculty remember Lewis Leeburg for his kindness, generosity and enduring love for UCLA.
“If he had an opportunity to do something for UCLA, he took it gladly,” said Ephraim McLean, who created UCLA IS Associates with Leeburg in 1978. “He will be remembered as someone who, whenever asked, gave his all for his alma mater.”
Leeburg, a three-time UCLA alumnus, died of pancreatic cancer April 14 at his home in Orange County. He was 85.
Leeburg was pivotal to the success of IS Associates, said Don Olender, the organization’s executive director. IS Associates, which has existed for 40 years, is a network of information technology professionals and UCLA students and faculty. Leeburg served as the chair of the organization when it began in 1978 and became the director in 1987 following a 31-year career with IBM. He also worked as a lecturer and adjunct professor at UCLA until his retirement in 2011.
“He was pure Bruin – he loved UCLA,” Olender said. “I think he’ll be remembered as much for his loyalty to the Bruin community as he will for the folks he drew into that community.”
IS Associates began at the Anderson School of Management to create networking and education opportunities between the school and the IT community in Southern California, said Davida Johnson, the managing director of practices and community partnerships at the UCLA Office of Information Technology. Currently, 40 companies are members of IS Associates, as well as UCLA faculty, students and staff.
Leeburg earned a bachelor’s degree in business from UCLA in 1954 and returned to receive an MBA and a doctorate in business administration in 1964 and 1971, respectively. He served as the student body president during his fourth undergraduate year, Olender said.
He also met his wife Marilyn “Nonnie” Leeburg at UCLA when the two were co-chairs of Spring Sing together, according to a statement Lewis Leeburg wrote for the UCLA Alumni Association. The Leeburgs were married for 63 years at the time of his death, according to UCLA Newsroom.
Leeburg used his contacts and connections from his time as a senior executive at IBM to recruit tech companies into IS Associates and built IS Associates programs around the needs of the technology industry, Johnson said.
He connected companies with faculty at Anderson to bridge the gap between the research they were doing in technology and the projects the industry was working on, Johnson added.
McLean said Leeburg made sure IS Associates ran smoothly after McLean left the organization.
“He was the one who was so instrumental in making sure we had the proper meetings and contacts. And then when I left (IS Associates), he took over completely,” McLean said. “(IS Associates) thrived when I left, and that was due to (Leeburg), … because of his ability to carry it forward and make it better than it was before.”
During Leeburg’s time as director, IS Associates grew from just a handful of members to around 45 member companies, Olender said. He added that Leeburg was an affable and engaging man who wanted IS Associates members to benefit from networking opportunities.
“It’s a real community … and (Leeburg) brought that kind of feeling to the organization by connecting people,” he said. “He was very supportive and generous with his time, and he was a great mentor.”
McLean said Leeburg could have advanced further in his career in IBM if he moved out of California, but he was never willing to leave UCLA behind.
“His long-standing affection for UCLA really colored his whole approach to making sure (IS Associates) was successful,” McLean said. ”He knew how great UCLA was, and he wanted to make sure everyone he talked to had the same appreciation.”
Leeburg also served on the boards of the UCLA Alumni Association, Order of the Golden Bruin, UCLA Foundation and the UCLA Retiree Association.
“He was a very gracious and approachable person with a great wealth of knowledge,” McLean said. “If there was ever a loyal alum, it was Lew Leeburg.”