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The Power of the Past to Better the Future

Four men, including three former L.A. mayors, on stage for panel discussion
A gift from Meyer and Renee Luskin creates the Luskin Center for History and Policy in UCLA College to analyze and apply important lessons from the past.

If forgetting the past means repeating mistakes, remembering it can change the course of history for good. Honoring this philosophy — and with the backing of Meyer Luskin ’49 and Renee Luskin ’53 — UCLA has created the West Coast’s first academic research center for applying historical insights to current issues.

From History Lessons to Policy Progress 

The Luskins’ recent gift of $5 million establishes the Luskin Center for History and Policy in UCLA College, which will translate academic research into accessible information for policymakers. The center will support collaborative research and publications, host visiting scholars and postdoctoral fellows, fund graduate students, and introduce courses on critical analysis and application of historical events — valuable skills in fields ranging from the social sciences and humanities to the physical sciences.

In addition to providing academic opportunities, the Luskin Center, with its mandate to influence policy, will reach a sizable network of stakeholders off campus. “Situated in a global university with a public mission, the new center is well placed to have decisive influence from the local level all the way to the international level,” UCLA’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh says.

Learning from Los Angeles Leaders

The Luskin Center’s first forum exemplifies its potential to engage the heavy hitters. Earlier this year, it hosted “Why History Matters: Mayors Past on the Present and Future of Los Angeles.” All three living former L.A. mayors — Richard Riordan, James Hahn, and Antonio Villaraigosa — participated in a discussion covering education, crime, development, transportation, and state politics.

The forum is just the beginning of even greater historical lessons to come. But before looking too far ahead, as Meyer Luskin says, “The best way to choose the path to the future is to know the roads that brought us to the present.”

Published June 2017

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