AARON , Benjamin |
Benjamin Aaron, a distinguished professor of law at UCLA since 1960, a former director of the UCLA Institute for Industrial Relations for 15 years, and a chair of the UCLA and University of California Academic Senates, passed away on Saturday, August 25, 2007, one week short of his 92nd birthday. Because of his expertise on labor issues, Professor Aaron was called upon by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy , Johnson and Bush (Sr.) as an advisor and to serve on several national boards and commissions, including the National War Labor Board and the National Wage Stabilization Board.
It provides great solace to his family, friends and colleagues who loved and greatly esteemed him to reflect upon the remarkable richness of his life, his career and his productivity as a scholar and arbitrator, which continues to inspire others. He was passionate about his work - doing what he loved even on the day of his collapse, which eventually led to his death. Shortly before, he had lunched with friends and colleagues and displayed his usual wit and prodigious memory.
Benjamin Aaron inspired not just admiration but awe among those who knew him. Although his life became one of epic proportions, when he was five years old, he lost both his mother and father in a single year. Ben, or "Benj" as he was known to his family, was blessed with a tremendous love of people and life. He became a distinguished scholar, teacher, arbitrator, and a public servant bestriding different professional worlds and making major contributions in each. He was a man of action and of thought, a man capable of courageous decisions and deep reflection. He displayed a notably beautiful elegance -- from his attire (the always self-prescribed beautifully tailored jacket and exquisite tie) to his speech and most strikingly to the thoughtful grace and courtesy with which he approached all with whom he came into contact no matter their station in life. He was the very model of "a gentleman." He was also for those at his university, for those in government and industry, for his family and friends, a repository of wisdom and someone who in all his dealings revealed exemplary decency, integrity, and modesty. Only some cruelty or some meanness of spirit or folly that led to serious harm or confrontatio n with pretentiousness or hypocrisy or, indeed, some shameless disregard of grammar, would arouse his ire. His passions were many: his family, especially his wife and his children and grandchildren, his work -- at his desk each morning almost invariably before any of his colleagues. He loved music, and literature, travel, nature--the Sierras especially -- food and wine (and for a substantial period of time fine cigars), and serious and playful conversation that revealed his sparkling wit and was seasoned throughout with apt quotations.
He loved the institution, UCLA, with which he had been connected for some 60 years and to which, in so many ways, he made enormous contributions. He made a point of engaging each of his new colleagues, welcoming them, offering support and, should they care to have it, response to their work. He invariably attended a regular Law School Monday colloquium and lunch. Conscientiousn ess in all that he did was engrained upon his soul.
He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Eleanor Opsahl Aaron, his children, Judith Aaron Turner and Louise Aaron Ozawa, his sons-in-law, Andrew Turner and Glenn Ozawa, his grandchildren, Jason Warshawer, John Meyer, Maya Aaron-Blue, Miranda Meyer and Noah Aaron-Blue, his great grandchildren, Abigail Marcum, Dillon Welcher, William Aaron-Blue and Gianni Kilkenny, his brother, Daniel Aaron and scores of nieces, nephews, cousins, dear friends and colleagues.
Those who admired and loved Benjamin Aaron during his life now have reposed within, serving both as a solace and inspiration, something to be cherished, the image of this remarkably dear and accomplished human being who achieved so much and whose memory serves as a reminder of how life can be lived to the fullest with both grace and with regard for each human being. His very last words were, "help me up!"
Instead of flowers, those who wish to honor Ben might consider contributions to The UCLA Foundation for support of the Benjamin Aaron Prize for the best of student publications.
At Ben's request, there will be no funeral. A celebration of his life will take place at a later date.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 29, 2007