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Playing it Forward

Student Anjali Pillai holds her bassoon.
A scholarship helped bring Anjali Pillai ’20 to campus and is nurturing her musical and philanthropic dreams.

UCLA is an inspiring place. Bruins of all backgrounds — from students and faculty to alumni and donors — find opportunities to imagine and mold the future and their places in it.

As a high school student, Anjali Pillai ’20 knew that UCLA was the place for her the moment she stepped foot on campus. Born in India, she and her family had moved to Simi Valley, California, when she was a baby, but more than geography felt familiar. UCLA seemed like home: Students and faculty were welcoming, and the atmosphere was alive with optimism and adventure. Pillai also saw herself continuing her musical studies at UCLA after a lesson with bassoon professor John Steinmetz. “I got a glimpse of how extraordinary UCLA faculty members are,” she says.

A Place to Pursue Her Passion

Amplifying these advantages, financial aid confirmed Pillai’s college choice. As a music major, she received the Shera and Peter Falk Lt. Columbo Scholarship, which will cover her tuition, room, and board for four years thanks to a generous $3 million bequest from the actor’s estate. When Department Chair Neal Stulberg shared the news, a thrilled Pillai knew that becoming a Bruin “was definitely the right decision.”

Now a freshman, Pillai is still looking ahead, planning to audition for graduate school and find a job in a professional orchestra or recording studio. “And one day,” she says, “I will be able to help students follow their dreams just like the Falks have helped me.”

As with her benefactors and other inspired Bruins before her, Pillai’s giving spirit is just one more way she proves she belongs at UCLA.

Published June 2017

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