Annual Gala - May 1, 2012
HONOREES: Gail Katz and Bruce Wessel
HONORABLE MENSCHEN: Lois and Richard Gunther
These tremendous individuals will be appropriately recognized and celebrated for their longtime support of Hillel and for their philanthropic enrichment of the world.
About Our Honorees:
Gail Katz and Bruce Wessel are returning to the Sephardic Temple where they were married by Hillel’s Executive Director, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, 25 years ago. Since that time, their connection to Hillel has been strengthened by personal milestones from daughter Nora’s baby-naming to son Jacob’s bris, and both childrens’ b’nai mitzvot. A tree stands in front of the Hillel building, which has been planted and dedicated in memory of Gail’s father, Harry Katz. Gail and Bruce’s appreciation for community, social connection and student development has turned their involvement with Hillel into a lifelong relationship.
A native of Los Angeles, Gail Katz has produced feature films that have grossed nearly $1.5 billion in box office receipts. Her producing credits include The Perfect Storm, Air Force One, Outbreak, In the Line of Fire, Mighty Joe Young, and Bicentennial Man, and in television, she was Executive Producer of series Cashmere Mafia and The Agency. Gail earned her MBA from the Yale School of Management, and BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley. She began her production career as a Vice President of Production at New World Pictures after she segued from her position there as Vice President of Finance. She left the company and formed Radiant Productions, a long and successful partnership with director Wolfgang Petersen. Presently, Gail heads up Gail Katz Productions and is Adjunct Professor of Production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She serves on the Board of Ambassadors of Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian organization, and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
Bruce Wessel is a partner in Irell & Manella LLP, where he is a member of the litigation group and serves on the firm’s executive committee. Bruce joined Irell in 1986 after he finished his clerkship with the Honorable Edward Rafeedie, a United States District Court Judge for the Central District of California. Born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut, he graduated in 1977 from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1984, he graduated from Yale Law School. Between college and law school, Bruce was a Coro Fellow in Los Angeles, served as a speechwriter for the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Pacific Life, ran a successful congressional campaign in Eastern Connecticut, and worked in the United States House of Representatives as a special assistant to United States Congressman Sam Gejdenson. Gejdenson was the first child of Holocaust Survivors elected to Congress. Bruce serves on the Board of Directors of Bet Tzedek Legal Services and the Los Angeles Chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.
About Our Honorable Menschen:
Lois and Richard Gunther epitomize tikkun olam – repairing the world in our local community and beyond with their time and talents. Strong supporters of Hillel’s social justice programs, the Gunthers are valued members of our Board of Trustees and have shared their expertise with our students by lecturing on leadership and community involvement. Richard graduated from UCLA in 1948 and later earned a Masters in Liberal Arts from USC in 1974. After years of business in construction, real estate development, and investments, he turned his attention to public service with Lois by his side. Some of his achievements include creating the “Legacy Award” with AARP, supporting the worldwide efforts of the Grammen Foundation USA, which provides microloans in developing countries, and chairing various committees that led to a rescue operation for Soviet Jewry (Operation Exodus), revitalization of two Israeli communities (Project Renewal), and reorganization of the Los Angeles Jewish community, respectively. In addition to service in non-profit and political spheres, he is an author, speaker and outdoorsman. Lois herself attended UCLA and has been energetically involved in public service with Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, the American Jewish Committee, the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Council, and the Skirball Cultural Center, to name a few. The Gunthers have been married since 1947, have three sons and three grandchildren, and continue to enjoy the pursuit of service and adventure. They have bicycled extensively in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and South America, and have trekked several times in the Himalayas, the Andes, and with their children climbed Mts. Fuji, Kilimanjaro, and Whitney.
About Our Emcee:
We’re thrilled to have actress, speaker, and author, Mayim Bialik, as our emcee. She currently stars as Amy Farrah Fowler in the CBS hit The Big Bang Theory, and is well-known for her lead role in the 90’s sitcom Blossom as well as her portrayal of a young Bette Midler in the film Beaches. She received a B.S. in Neuroscience and Hebrew and Jewish Studies from UCLA in 2000, and earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA in 2007. She is a wife, mother of two sons, author, and spokesperson with interests in holistic and green parenting/living and in Jewish values. Mayim has been a fixture at Hillel since her time at UCLA in the late 90’s, and she continues to be a dynamic partner, especially during High Holy Days when she shares her talents by blowing the shofar.
Our Annual Gala benefits the pursuit of Hillel at UCLA’s mission: to enrich the lives of Jewish students at UCLA so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. For over 75 years, Hillel has been a vibrant Jewish campus presence. We are the premier Jewish student organization at UCLA, helping students expand Jewish knowledge, hone leadership skills, bolster ties to Israel, and volunteer in social justice projects. Just as the university establishes a professional foundation for students’ futures, Hillel builds a Jewish foundation for their lifetime.
We look forward to creating a very exciting evening for our honorees, including our Outstanding Student Awardee, and your participation will make it all the more special. Please join us by registering for the event, or consider an ad in our Tribute Journal in support of these exemplary honorees.
Barbara Fisher, Gala Chair
Sandy Einberg, Development Chair
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, Executive Director