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Both a Fond Farewell and a Hearty Hello

May 19, 1997|BRIDGET BYRNE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Just imagine me in a long white gown" John Lithgow instructed an audience of 1,300 gathered in a huge white tent on UCLA's Royce Quad. The versatile actor was not showing off the farcical skills that have made his TV sitcom "3rd Rock From the Sun" such a hit, but standing in for actress Angela Lansbury at the gala dinner to celebrate the public launch of the university's "Where Great Futures Begin" fund-raising campaign.

The Leadership Gifts Phase of the campaign has already raised $446.1 million, 37% of the $1.2 billion goal. Saturday night's black-tie event, honoring Charles E. Young, who is retiring after 30 years as chancellor, marked what campaign Chairman Bob Wilson called "the shifting from the quiet phase to an all-out effort."

Billed as "UCLA's most visible faculty husband," Lithgow, who is married to history professor Mary Yeager, happens also to be a friend of incoming Chancellor Albert Carnesale, provost of Harvard University, Lithgow's alma mater. Thus Lithgow had strong qualifications to tease Carnesale that his duties as chancellor would include such skills as knowing how to "schmooze donors, trustees and sports nuts."

The dinner speeches were in praise of Young, who was given a huge Presidential Medal and had the University Research Library named in his honor. Also Circle Drive on the campus will be renamed for Young. This won't officially take place until a year after his June 30 retirement, so he was handed a giant street sign to prove it.

Among the speakers, honorary co-Chairman Lew Wasserman earned the plaudits for succinctness by rising from his table to lead a simple "cheers" toast to wish Young and his wife, Sue, a happy future.

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