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Lessons from History

Archival photo of crowd viewing the Statue of Liberty
Understanding American immigration history will help students and society grasp today’s challenges and shape future policies.

Sometimes two passions come together in just the right way. The story of Leslie Koepplin, PhD ’71 is an example.

Memories That Motivate

Koepplin’s grandparents were German immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th century. “I first came to understand immigration through the eyes of my grandparents,” he says. “I began to realize that to understand this nation you must understand its immigrants, and that history is the best path to that.”

The first in his family to attend college, Koepplin earned his doctoral degree in history with the help of the Senator William Andrews Clark Graduate Fellowship. “I was fortunate to receive that fellowship, and I want graduate students to enjoy the same support I had during my time at UCLA,” he says.

Support for Students

That is why Koepplin and his wife, Linda, gave $300,000 to establish the Leslie W. and Linda L. Koepplin Graduate Fellowship in U.S. Immigrant History. Their gift could not have come at a better time, according to department chair Stephen Aron. Understanding American immigration history will help students and society grasp today’s challenges and shape future policies.

Koepplin has supported scholars in other ways, too. He spent 25 years in Washington, D.C., working with several administrations, Congress, and higher education associations to maximize funding for students and research. Following retirement, he taught capstone seminars for UCLA’s history department and still returns to campus to share his policy expertise with graduate students at Career Center events.

A First Step Forward

For all its foundation in history, the Koepplins’ gift is also a first — UCLA College’s first fellowship to secure funds through the Chancellor’s Centennial Graduate Scholars Match, which added $150,000 to their donation. “I am extremely grateful to the Koepplins for their generous and well-directed gift,” Aron says. “This is a wonderful investment in the UCLA history department, whose continued excellence depends on our ability to attract the best graduate students.”

To that end, the Koepplins are eager to meet their first fellow in the 2018–2019 academic year. Their gift — inspired by looking back — will keep UCLA moving forward.

Published December 2017

Leslie and Linda Koepplin pose in front of greenery.

Donors Leslie Koepplin, PhD ’71 and Linda Koepplin

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