Donald Prell ’48, World War II POW, visionary, humanitarian, philanthropist and lifelong supporter of UCLA remembered for his progressive and open-minded attitude, passed away in July at age 96.
Born on July 7, 1924, Prell’s undergraduate education at UCLA was interrupted by World War II. He was captured and imprisoned by German soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge, spending five months as a prisoner of war before escaping.
When he returned to Westwood to resume his education after the end of the war, his eyes opened by the unspeakable brutality he had witnessed, Prell became a champion for racial justice in Westwood and on campus. He also switched his major to psychology after observing how other POWs grappled with their situation during his imprisonment; by studying psychology, he hoped to continue learning about what makes people tick and what helps them cope, his son, Owen Prell, said.
As a “futurologist” in the 1950s, Prell collaborated with several computer industry pioneers. He also created and published “Datamation,” one of the earliest magazines dedicated solely to the computer data-processing industry.
As founder and president of two venture capital firms, Prell cared about promoting diversity and equality in the workspace, his grandson Collin Prell said.
Prell was a former president of the Order of the Blue Shield, an alumni group dedicated to furthering the interest and welfare of UCLA, and founded the Bette and Don Prell Merit Scholarship, which awards $2,000 annual scholarships to three high-achieving UCLA students.
Prell chaired UCLA Golden Year Celebration in 1979, which marked the 50th Anniversary of the Westwood campus. Friend and colleague Steven D. Sann ’83, J.D. ’91, reminisced, “I had the tremendous privilege of working with Don as the student member on the Golden Year Committee, and saw him in action.
“Among many projects, the Golden Year Committee (with key support from Carolyn Vena, Alan Charles and Elwin Svenson) was responsible for the creation of The UCLA Medal (now the highest honor at UCLA), and the installation of commemorative bronze plaques placed in every building on campus, noting the history of each building namesake.
“Don was a tremendously loyal Bruin, a stalwart supporter of the Order of the Golden Bruin, and a longtime member of our OGB Steering Committee. In fact, he was instrumental in the revival of OGB in the mid-2000s, after many years of dormancy.
“When I had the privilege of serving as Advocate, Don told me he felt it was very important that our new members KNEW “they belonged” to something important and that they felt welcomed from the moment of their very first initiation meeting.
“Don touched the life of the UCLA campus, which he deeply loved, in so many ways. He leaves an enduring legacy for all of us.”
Prell is survived by his wife, Bette; son, Owen; daughter, Erin; and six grandchildren and stepgrandchildren.
Read the Daily Bruin obituary here.