Reciting the quote, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” becomes second nature when one has studied the work of Oscar Wilde as long as veteran UCLA English professor Joseph Bristow. Yet it wasn’t until a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts seminar that Bristow began to reconsider why imitation, alongside artistic forgery, defines Wilde’s formative years, specifically in the case of Thomas Chatterton.
David N. Myers, professor and Robert N. Burr Department Chair in the UCLA College’s Department of History, has been awarded the inaugural Sady and Ludwig Kahn Chair in Jewish History, which will provide the renowned historian funds for research, graduate student support, and annual public seminars and symposia.
“It is a great honor to be the first holder of this chair, which will ensure that the poignant and powerful story of Sady and Ludwig Kahn—and of so many other Jews from the near and distant past—will be taught to generations of students at UCLA,” Myers said. “The Kahn Chair affirms UCLA’s place as a major center for the study of Jewish history in the United States and the world.”
Myers, who will be stepping down as department chair at the end of June, received his bachelor’s degree from Yale College in 1982. He then undertook graduate studies at Tel-Aviv and Harvard Universities before completing his doctorate at Columbia in 1991. He has written extensively in the fields of modern Jewish intellectual and cultural history, with a particular interest in the history of Jewish historiography.
He has authored Re-Inventing the Jewish Past: European Jewish Intellectuals and the Zionist Return to History, Resisting History: Historicism and its Discontents in German-Jewish Thought, and Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz. Myers has edited eight books, including The Jewish Past Revisited and Enlightenment, Diaspora: The Armenian and Jewish Cases, and The Faith of Fallen Jews: Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi and the Writing of Jewish History.
The late Sady and Ludwig Kahn were among thousands of German-Jewish refugees who fled Germany in the late 1930s when the Nazis rose to power, with little more than the clothes on their backs. The Kahns forged a new life for themselves in Los Angeles, and Sady’s parents came to live with them soon after, having escaped on one of the last trains out of Germany. Sady and Ludwig worked all hours, scrimped and saved, and ultimately established a thriving hat-making business.
At Sady Kahn’s request, long-time family friends Jim and Lori Keir helped her identify beneficiary charities, one of which was UCLA. According to Keir, the university was a perfect fit with her values and interests.
“Having had no children of her own, Sady was delighted to know that young people would benefit from her trust long after she was gone,” he said.
UCLA literature professor Efrain Kristal still remembers how fascinated, yet unsettled, he felt at 17 after reading his first book of short stories by the late Argentine master Jorge Louis Borges, whose philosophical fiction mixes fact and fantasy and sometimes crosses the line into literary hoax.
The UCLA/Getty Interdepartmental Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation has received two gifts of $500,000, successfully completing a $1 million match challenge presented by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2011.
A gift from the Kahn Foundation, administered by attorney-trustee James Keir, will support the Kahn Graduate Fellows in the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program, while alumnus Jeffrey Cunard’s donation established the Lore and Gerald Cunard Chair in the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program (pending approval by the UC Office of the President).
Housed in the Cotsen Institute for Archaeology, the UCLA/Getty program trains students in cutting-edge conservation techniques to preserve priceless, fragile artifacts of archaeological, historical and artistic value. It is the only graduate-level academic conservation program on the west coast, and the only program in the country with a strong focus on archaeological and ethnographic materials.
“We are tremendously grateful for the generosity of the Mellon Foundation, Jeffrey Cunard and the Kahn Foundation,” Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh said. “Their comprehensive support will enable the program to expand and continue to draw the very best graduate students to UCLA.”
The UCLA/Getty program is the youngest among a national consortium of four graduate programs in art conservation to receive challenge grants from Mellon.
Program Chair Ioanna Kakoulli, a faculty member in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, said, “Thanks to this infusion of endowed funds, we are now in a stronger position to grow the much-needed pipeline of conservation leaders with the specialist knowledge and skills to preserve artifacts and materials.”
Kakoulli noted that conservation is now considered a full-fledged scientific discipline, connecting the humanities and social sciences with the physical sciences and engineering. During their first two years, students work in state-of-the-art labs at the Getty Villa in Malibu, gaining hands-on experience with objects on loan from the Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Autry National Center, the University of Southern California and Native American assemblages. As well as technical skills, students gain an understanding of the meaning certain materials may hold for indigenous populations. The third and final year is spent interning at top-tier museums and archaeological/historical sites such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia; Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka and Bhutan; archaeological sites in Greece, Italy and Turkey; and Native American sites in California. Graduates of the program have accepted permanent positions at prestigious institutions around the country and abroad.
Alessandro Duranti, Dean of Social Sciences in the UCLA College, said, “The UCLA/Getty Program is an impressive collaboration—across disciplines, institutions, and cultures—that is helping to keep our rich world history alive while elevating the quality of research and teaching for all involved.”
David Schaberg, Dean of Humanities, said, “As one of the world’s great research universities, UCLA is committed to doing our part to preserve the legacy of humanity’s rich cultural heritage. The Mellon Foundation and these two generous donors have furthered our mission considerably.”
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. The Mellon Foundation is an important benefactor to UCLA, supporting a wide array of university initiatives.
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