Mellinkoff died July 17 at his home near the Westwood campus, UCLA said in a statement.
He took over the school in 1962, when it was just a decade old and did not yet have its own buildings. He led it for 25 years — a marathon term for a medical school dean. Under his direction it grew from a few dozen students to classes of 1,500 interns, residents and fellows.
Mellinkoff helped establish multiple organ transplant programs, a comprehensive cancer center and one of the first federally funded centers for research in positron emission tomography, or PET scans.
Those who worked under him said he was a beloved and generous leader for whom no project was too quirky when he saw its merits.
Jared Diamond, the well-known professor behind "Guns, Germs and Steel" and other books, said when he arrived at UCLA in the mid-1960s he was nervous that he wanted to keep studying birds along with human physiology.
"Sherm's response was unforgettable," Diamond said in a statement. "He looked me in the eye and said with complete sincerity, 'Jared, UCLA is interested in New Guinea birds. We are going to give you $5,000 a year to support your research there.'"
Mellinkoff was also a renaissance man whose friends and colleagues said knew his literature, history and baseball nearly as well as his medicine.
His successor as dean, Dr. Kenneth Shine, said Mellinkoff was the only man he knew "who could quote James Thurber and Ecclesiastes in the same sentence."
Mellinkoff was a native of Pennsylvania whose shoe-selling family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child.
He said that at Beverly Hills High School he was interested in literature, history and debating — everything except medicine."
But he took a biology class by a local doctor his senior year, and that changed everything. He was a pre-med at Stanford, completed his residency at Johns Hopkins and served a two-year stint as an army doctor.
He joined the UCLA medical faculty in 1953, and took over as dean about a decade later. Mellinkoff continued teaching after his retirement as dean.