Saturday, May 8, 2021

Jan Reiff

Longtime UCLA Professor Jan Reiff, who was a beloved teacher and colleague and one of the people most responsible for helping lead the campus into the era of technological instruction, died unexpectedly on May 4 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 71.

At the time of her death, Reiff was serving as a member of UCLA’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force and as special assistant for online teaching and learning to Chancellor Gene Block and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Emily Carter.

“Jan was a kind and generous person, a trusted adviser to me and other leaders across UCLA, and a devoted, beloved member of our community. She served the campus selflessly in many ways over the course of nearly three decades here,” Carter said. “Jan was also bold in her thinking about how we create effective learning environments for our students, most recently leading UCLA’s online education efforts. She played a central role in helping our faculty and other instructors navigate the switch to virtual teaching during the pandemic.”

Reiff, who was a professor of history and statistics, joined the faculty in 1992. In a nod to her deep love of the history of cities, she taught a popular course for freshmen that took them all along Sunset Boulevard to learn about the history of both the famous street and Los Angeles. Also, during her decades on campus, Reiff was a consistent and vocal leader for good university governance and pedagogical innovation...

Her colleagues chose Reiff for the Academic Senate’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2009, because of her creative and highly effective ideas about how to reform education. Both students and professors admired her ambitious multimedia presentations and her use of Hypercities — a historical mapping tool and website developed at UCLA — that allowed students to download their research findings about historic neighborhoods in her class about Los Angeles...

Scott Waugh, history professor and former executive vice chancellor and provost, said: “Jan’s sudden and unexpected passing is a tragic loss for her family and friends and for all her colleagues at UCLA. Hired for her skills in quantitative history and the application of computers to historical research, Jan generously used those talents to help create a better online teaching environment for the entire campus. She cared deeply about teaching and about student learning, and she helped countless faculty adopt digital and online teaching methods. That background proved invaluable in helping UCLA cope with the challenges of the COVID pandemic. I loved working with Jan and will miss her deeply, as will all the faculty, students and staff who knew her.”

Full obituary at

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