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UCLA Toasts Honorary Alum

July 21, 1998|BARBARA THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UCLA doesn't give out honorary degrees, but it bestows the UCLA Medal to people who really, truly deserve honorary degrees. Saturday afternoon, in the Regency Club in Westwood, 60 people gathered to honor a woman who has worked endlessly for charities and who recently, with her husband, endowed the university with $10 million, enough money to guarantee 100 full scholarships for undergraduates every year for as long as there is a UCLA.

The money, the Wassermans insisted, was to go to students, not toward erecting a building named after the couple.

"I don't like to give to a building," said Edie Wasserman.

That's Edie Wasserman, powerhouse fund-raiser for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, mother, grandmother and, according to her grandson, "wife, best friend and counselor of a motion picture legend" (Lew Wasserman, big guy, major force in Hollywood).

Edie Wasserman likes things simple and private without a lot of public ceremony or fuss. The two-hour event, at which she received the UCLA Medal, was done to her taste. Guests were from her closest circle: daughter Lynne; grandchildren Casey Wasserman and Carol Lief; Janet Leigh; Roddy McDowall; Suzanne Pleshette and her husband, Thomas Gallagher III; Gordon Davidson, of the Mark Taper Forum; dresser of divas Nolan Miller and his former boss--maybe you've heard of him--Aaron Spelling, and his wife, Candy. And don't forget esteemed society photographer Alan Berliner, who came out of retirement to shoot the event.

UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale opened with a letter of congratulations from her "devoted friend," former U.S. First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. Gil Cates, director, producer and now dean of UCLA's motion picture and television department, described his friend and medal recipient: "This is a woman who does what she does because she wants to do it."

Vice Chancellor Winston Doby thanked Wasserman for "one of the most generous gifts ever made for undergraduates at UCLA." He reminded the crowd that she and Lew Wasserman, two of Hollywood's more powerful players, were excellent high school students during the Depression, who were accepted into college but couldn't afford to attend.

The high point came when grandson Casey, 24 (UCLA Class of '96 and president of the Wasserman Foundation), welcomed Wasserman into the Bruin alumni. "This just confirms my grandmother's true status."

The Bruin of '98 rose, nodded to the crowd and said simply, "Thank you, everybody. Thank you all for coming."

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