In Memory of My Friend Gil Cates


On behalf of the entire UCLA family, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to Judith and the entire Cates-Reichman family and my profound gratitude for giving me this opportunity to say a few words about how much my friend Gil Cates meant to UCLA and to me personally.

Soon after I arrived at UCLA, my wife Carol and I became good friends with both Gil and Judith.

It’s so difficult to believe that I will no longer get that expected call from Gil saying: “Chancellor” – he always called me Chancellor – “I know you are having lots of tsuris.  Let’s talk.  The four of us should get together for dinner.”

Gil was magnetic, generous, and funny.  He was, well, a Mensch.

As we all know, Gil’s great passion was entertaining people. Hamlet said:  “The play’s the thing.”  For Gil it was The Show.

Gil understood that entertainment has value and meaning.  It connects people and communities, nourishes the soul, uplifts the spirit, and for many it lightens the load of everyday life.

Gil’s other passion — perhaps a little less well-known — was education.

In 1990, after an exhaustive search involving hundreds of potential candidates Gil emerged as the unquestioned choice. He was a uniquely qualified triple threat, and so he became the founding Dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

Gil truly was — as the expression goes — a Big Man on campus.  But he never let his star power go to his head.

As the Dean, Gil revitalized the School’s relationships with its alumni, recruited top-notch faculty, and established the Dean’s Advisory Board, attracting many luminaries from the entertainment industry.  Importantly, he brought Hollywood and UCLA together in new and creative ways.

And of course Gil founded his beloved Geffen Playhouse.

Through it all – and thanks to many of you here tonight – Gil immeasurably enhanced the educational experience of his students and burnished the global reputation of UCLA.

Gil was also a terrific teacher, and I want to share what a few students said about Professor Cates:

“Gil is approachable, knowledgeable and a marvelous instructor.”

“Gil is incredible! What positive energy!  He makes learning fun.”

And here’s my favorite:  “His spirit is contagious and inspiring. When Gil is in the classroom, his students feel as though there is no other place on the planet he’d rather be.”

Gil has been described as a showman, an impresario, a visionary.

All true.

But I thought of Gil mostly as a friend — a friend to me personally, and an invaluable friend to UCLA.

So tonight we thank God — for sharing Gil with us.  Not long enough, but for a good many years.

We also thank Gil — for lightening the load and making the journey a little easier and more enjoyable for all of us.

So let us pledge tonight to remember Gil, not only in our hearts but with our deeds, by continuing to support the legacy of his twin passions — entertainment and education –both at the Geffen and at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

We love and miss you Gil.  What a great human being.