In Memoriam: Andrea L. Rich, former professor and executive vice chancellor, dies at 71

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Alumna led efforts to improve undergraduate education, played key role in restructuring professional schools and academic programs

Ricardo Vazquez and Cynthia Lee

Andrea L. Rich, a scholar of intercultural and interracial communications who rose from an assistant professorship to become executive vice chancellor during nearly 30 years of service to UCLA, died Monday. She was 71.

She had leukemia and died at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, her family said.

 

A champion of teaching excellence, Rich led efforts to improve undergraduate education, increased support for teaching as the founding director of the Office of Instructional Development, renovated instructional facilities and played an instrumental role in restructuring UCLA’s professional schools and academic programs to enhance efficiency and academic quality.

Rich received three academic degrees from UCLA: a B.A. degree summa cum laude (1965), a master of arts degree (1966) and a Ph.D. (1968). She took a position as an assistant professor in the speech department in 1968 and went on to hold several key administrative positions before being appointed executive vice chancellor by then-Chancellor Charles E. Young in 1991.

She left UCLA in 1995 to become president and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where she worked for 10 years.

Even after leaving UCLA, Rich remained committed to UCLA and its mission. Shortly after Chancellor Gene Block was appointed UCLA’s chief executive in 2007, Rich offered to organize a reception for him to meet several community leaders in the arts, politics and other fields, tapping into her extensive contacts to help welcome and acclimate UCLA’s new chancellor. She also met several times alone with the chancellor.

“I will always be grateful for the effort she made to really roll out the welcome wagon,” Block said. “It’s a testament to her warmth as well as to her loyalty to UCLA as an institution that she would reach out to me and to others in such a way.”

As vice chancellor for academic administration from 1987 to 1991, Rich oversaw the restructuring of UCLA’s arts program to bring a greater professional focus to arts education and position the campus as the West’s leading center for performing and visual arts. This resulted in the reorganization of the former College of Fine Arts into two professional schools — the School of the Arts (now the School of the Arts and Architecture) and the School of Theater, Film and Television, which she headed as acting dean.

As executive vice chancellor, she led the reorganization of what are now the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and the David Geffen School of Medicine into an integrated medical enterprise. And she played a critical role in the development of the Professional Schools Restructuring Initiative, a move that cut campus costs while creating a new School of Public Policy and Social Research, later renamed the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The major initiative also realigned other schools and departments.

“She was an amazing woman — very strong, very tough and very intelligent with a great ability to make decisions and implement them,” said Young, now Chancellor Emeritus. “She was one of the most effective and broad-ranged people I have ever worked with at UCLA. She was a very, very bright and sharp person whom I enjoyed working with as much as anyone I’ve worked with at UCLA.”

Archie Kleingartner was founding dean of the School of Public Policy and Social Research and worked closely with Rich in the mid-1990s on the restructuring initiative. “She provided a very high level of leadership,” said Kleingartner, professor emeritus with a joint appointment in public policy and the Anderson School of Management and former chair of the Academic Senate. “She was a person of great integrity, strength, leadership and resilience.”

Other colleagues remembered her as a fierce advocate for teaching excellence. She was responsible for creating UCLA's Office of Instructional Development (OID) and committed to providing faculty with the tools needed to deliver a high-quality undergraduate education.

“The founding of OID was such a critical step in assisting the faculty and made teaching a preeminent activity at UCLA,” said Judi Smith, emeritus vice provost of undergraduate education and former chair of the UCLA Academic Senate.

Among Rich’s innovations at OID was the Night to Honor Teaching. Established in 1983 and co-sponsored with the Academic Senate, the annual celebration recognizes UCLA's most distinguished teachers, lecturers and faculty.

“When Andrea left UCLA in 2005, the Academic Senate leaders asked that the event bear her name in honor of her sustained commitment to teaching excellence at UCLA,” Smith said.

Rich herself received a distinguised teaching award in 1974, awarded at the time by the Alumni Association, for her exemplary work in communication studies, marked by clarity, scholarship and wit, her colleagues noted. She also helped design a proposal for a new interdisciplinary major in communication studies.

To honor Rich and her legacy as a champion of teaching, Smith and other leaders of the Academic Senate worked with OID and the senate’s Committee on Teaching to name the event after Rich. The first Andrea L. Rich Night to Honor Teaching was held in 1996.

During her career at UCLA, Rich received a number of awards, including an Honorary Fellow Award from the UCLA College and the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest honor.

During her 10 years leading LACMA, Rich was credited with for doubling the museum’s endowment to more than $100 million.

Under her direction, the museum expanded virtually every area of its operations — from collections and special exhibits to community programs and creation of new exhibit space. She also won praise for increasing membership and developing programs and acquiring art that appealed to Los Angeles’ diverse communities.

She is survived by her two sons, Anthony and Robert; her brother Robert Beck; and granddaughter Alexandra.

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