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Posthumous $9M donation from married professors to support students, faculty

UCLA will use posthumous donations from two professors to offer scholarships to students and financially support department faculty. (Courtesy of UCLA Newsroom)

By Genesis Qu

Oct. 22, 2020 6:27 p.m.

A married pair of UCLA professors posthumously left the university nearly $9 million that will go toward scholarships, department chairs and seminars.

Bernice Wenzel and Wendell Jeffrey, two married psychology professors at UCLA who passed away in 2018 and 2015, respectively, donated $8.7 million to UCLA, said Lynn Andrews, the professors’ niece, in an emailed statement. The donation is meant to help other academics financially, Andrews said.

“They had no children,” Andrews said in the statement. “And because they were professors they wanted to support the work of other academics and academics of the future no matter the overall state of the university budget.”

Around $4.5 million from the donation will fund the psychology department’s faculty chairs, scholarships, fellowships and seminars, said College of Letters and Science spokesperson Melissa Abraham in an emailed statement.

Wenzel joined the UCLA faculty as a junior research anatomist in 1956 and became a psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and physiology professor at UCLA in 1970, Abraham said. Jeffrey was a developmental cognitive psychologist in the psychology department until he retired in 1990, Abraham added.

Abraham said the couple was well known for their commitment to UCLA and its community – they donated to and were involved with multiple UCLA-related organizations, she said. She added their donations established the Jeffrey Lecture series, an annual lecture on cognitive neuroscience, and the Wendell Jeffrey and Bernice Wenzel Term Chair in Behavioral Neuroscience, an endowed position for early-career faculty who have excelled in their field of study.

Wenzel was a part of the first generation of female professors, Abraham said. She also discovered pigeons use three of their senses – smell, sound and sight – to guide themselves.

Another $4.05 million will finance scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, Abraham added.

Music was Wenzel and Jeffrey’s lifelong passions, Andrews said. When Jeffrey served in World War II, he played in jazz bands and dreamed of playing music across the country, she added.

“The professors were passionate about music, having supported organizations such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Ojai Music Festival during their lifetime,” said Inaugural Dean of the School of Music Eileen Strempel. “Their gift to support scholarships for music students at UCLA speaks to their commitment to helping shape the next generation of musicians.”

The rest of the donation will go to the Hammer Museum at UCLA, the UCLA Emeriti/Retirees Relations Center, the UCLA Library and the annual Henry J. Bruman Summer Chamber Music Festival at UCLA, Abraham said.

The UCLA community was the professors’ family and home, Andrews said.

She added that the two are interred next to each other at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary.

“This is as close as I could get them to UCLA for their final resting place,” she said. “That was their wish, to be together and to be near UCLA.”

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Genesis Qu | Editor in chief
Qu was the 2021-2022 Editor in chief. He was previously the 2020-2021 campus politics editor and a contributor for The Stack. He studied statistics and political science at UCLA.
Qu was the 2021-2022 Editor in chief. He was previously the 2020-2021 campus politics editor and a contributor for The Stack. He studied statistics and political science at UCLA.
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