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John Dreyfuss, 70; Former Times Architecture and Design Critic

August 24, 2004|Jon Thurber | Times Staff Writer

John Dreyfuss, a former architecture and design critic for the Los Angeles Times who also wrote features and covered higher education and the environment in a 27-year career with the paper, has died. He was 70.

Dreyfuss, who served as director of planning and communications at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center after leaving The Times, died Saturday at UCLA Medical Center of complications from an appendectomy.

Born in New York City, he was the son of Henry Dreyfuss, the industrial designer who created numerous items used in American homes, including the Singer sewing machine, Hoover vacuum cleaner and various models of telephones.

When John Dreyfuss was in his teens, his family moved to California to find a better climate for his mother, Doris. He was educated at the Midland School, a private, college prep school in the Santa Ynez Valley. He later married the headmaster's daughter, Katharine Elizabeth.

After a stint in the Army, Dreyfuss earned a degree in biology at Boston University. He went to graduate school at Claremont Men's College, where he earned his teaching credential. He taught briefly in Carmel and at Midland, but settled on a career in newspapers, working first as a reporter for the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune and then briefly as an advertising salesman at the Ventura Star-Free Press.

After many applications and persistent phone calls, Dreyfuss was hired by The Times in 1966 as an education writer covering colleges and universities around the state during a time of campus unrest and changing academic standards.

After 10 years on that beat, he was named the paper's architecture and design critic, writing about architect Frank Gehry's house in Santa Monica, the development of the Wells Fargo Tower at 5th and Flower streets downtown, the new entrance to the Huntington Library in San Marino and the Sherman Oaks Galleria. From 1983 until leaving the paper 10 years later in a staff buyout, Dreyfuss wrote features for what was then called the View section, and worked in editing and administrative capacities in the paper's feature sections.

Colleagues remembered him Monday as a warm and gregarious man with an engaging wit. Dreyfuss also was recalled as a positive force in the newsroom with an affinity for mentoring young staffers.

After leaving the paper, he started a construction company with his son, James Henry Dreyfuss, and worked as a news writer for KTLA Channel 5 before joining UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Judy Gasson, the center's director, remembered Dreyfuss for his wisdom in dealing with internal challenges and his skill in dealing with the media. "His job title never limited his activities, and he was involved in every aspect of the cancer center," Gasson said. "He was a force in getting out the message of cancer information and what was being done and what was on the horizon. Scientists don't always do a good job in that, so he stepped in and was an enthusiastic bridge between the medical staff and the media."

In addition to his wife and son, Dreyfuss is survived by three daughters, Karen Elizabeth Dreyfuss-Avendano, Katharine Marks Dreyfuss and Kimberly Anne Dreyfuss-Linse; a sister, Gail Dreyfuss-Wilson; and five grandchildren.

Funeral services will be private. A memorial service is in the planning stages.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Foundation, 10833 Le Conte Ave., 8-950 Factor Building, Los Angeles, CA 90095; or the Midland School, P.O. Box 8, Los Olivos, CA 93441.

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