A Return to Rieber and the Good Ol’ Days
n a warm summer morning in August, an enthusiastic group of Bruins returned to UCLA. Fifty-five alumni, family and friends came back to campus from 14 different states. A shared bond on their journey to adulthood brought them together and more than 45 years later, the bond not only remains strong, but it continues to grow.
The weekend held laughter and love, with old friendships renewed and new ones formed. As students, the group had all lived, partied and studied together on the fourth floor, North wing of UCLA’s Rieber Hall between the years 1975 and 1978. But what mattered is that they supported and looked out for each other. Among the attendees, there were 16 with master's degrees, six Ph.D.s, three M.D.s and four J.D.s. They also collectively had 61 children and 31 grandchildren.
When Steve Heifetz ʼ79 arrived at UCLA in 1975, Captain & Tennille were on the radio singing "Love Will Keep Us Together," Tommy Lasorda played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and UCLA’s annual tuition was $630 for California residents; $2,130 for non-residents.
As the first in his immediate family to attend college, Steve had planned to work for his father. Accepted to UCLA, he was assigned a room on Rieber Hall 4 North (R4N). There, he found the community that gave him the determination to thrive in life. Steve’s bonds to R4N are strong — the dorm was where he met his future wife, Andrea (Halter) Heifetz ’80.
His floormates graduated in the years before cell phones or email, and many only stayed in touch with one or two friends. About 10 years ago, Steve began thinking about his UCLA days, “I miss my old friends, and I hardly ever see them.” The next time he was in Los Angeles for work, he arranged dinner with a small group. The evening ran late into the night, as the friends reminisced about their time at UCLA and how their shared experience during those formative years helped mold their lives.
Back in Minnesota, Steve dug out an old address list and started calling his R4N floormates. He set up a private Facebook group, which grew to 130 members, where the alumni post updates, share old photos and reconnect with friends — as well as rekindle romances. With the help of former UCLA Alumni Board member, John Gong ’80, Steve and Andrea began to plan and organize an in-person event.
Miriam Loui ʼ80 traveled across the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii for the reunion. She is grateful to Steve, Andrea and John for getting the ball rolling, and describes the day as a gift. She says, “The best part of the reunion was that it even happened at all.” She felt happy and lucky to be there, and says, “There was this moment in time that we all came together all those years ago. It was really terrific to be back with friends.”
The excitement was infectious as the day started with a tour of the campus, including a stop at Rieber Hall. The group hired current UCLA students to lead the tours. Soon, alumni and students were sharing stories and swapping memories about Bruin life.
On The Hill, alumni marveled at how the dorm has evolved, with former doubles now sleeping three. When they were at UCLA, historic social changes were taking place across America. In keeping with new attitudes, UCLA began offering coed floors on the fourth and fifth floors of Hedrick, Rieber and Sproul Halls in 1973. Previously, a wall in the lounge between the two towers had separated men from women. Each floor had a bathroom at either end of the long hallway, one designated for men and the other for women.
The floormates voted to take these changes one step further and make their bathrooms coed after midnight, eliminating the need to take a long walk down the hallway late at night. And that’s where Steve met Andrea, brushing their teeth together after midnight. Several years later Steve and Andrea married, one of several marriages between R4N floor-mates.
Adding to the nostalgia of the day, UCLA Housing catered a delicious lunch. The meal was so wonderful that the alumni could not believe they were eating dorm food. The room also held two tables filled with memorabilia saved from their college days, including copies of the dorm newsletter “What’s Bru-in at Rieber.”
Steve shared a presentation he titled “How Did I Get Here?” He traced life from kindergarten to his career as a cardiologist, emphasizing how UCLA and R4N were central to his life’s pathway. He says, “Hold on to the things that are the most important part of your life … family and friends. They helped create who you are today.”
UCLA Alumni Director of Engagement Operations Sandy Nguyen ʼ10 delivered a talk on Chancellor Block’s Bruin Promise, followed by UCLA student and Alumni Scholar Jack Pearce exp. ʼ24, who gave an engaging presentation on his cancer research. Jack then shared another talent as the party DJ, spinning hit songs from the '70s.
Marilyn Luzano Martin ʼ78 was excited to reconnect with her long lost friends. She recalls that it felt like a family, “What resonates with me was the amazing group of people on the floor. Not everybody got along, but they were good, nice people with a sense of community and camaraderie.” The reunion brought back a flood of memories. “It was like no time has passed.”
Marilyn remembers dorm dinners in the cafeteria as a social event. From time to time, the group would get dressed up for a formal dinner at a nearby restaurant. She loved spending time with old friends. At the reunion, she reconnected with her roommate, Marla Walters. They have been talking and texting, and are planning a visit. She says, “I’m just hoping the next generation has the same experience.”
The day held one more special surprise. Steve created a one-hour video of photos that told the story of the floormates titled, “Return to Rieber.” Miriam says, “You could hear a pin drop. It was so wonderful to revisit college.” She remembers being a student, walking up Janss Steps thinking, “I’m here for a little while, make the best of it.” Now, she says, “Looking back in the fullness of time, it’s part of me, and I’m really grateful to UCLA.”
No reunion would be complete without a rousing 8-clap. When the party ended at 4 p.m., no one was ready to say goodbye. Half of the group moved to a private room at the Luskin Center's Plateia restaurant where they reminisced until 11 p.m.
The floormates agree that the day was a joyful and emotional success. They returned home grateful for the friends they made at a pivotal time in their lives, friendships that helped to determine their future plans. Seeing each other again was a reminder of how important these years had been, and that the bonds they made as Bruins are strong enough to last a lifetime.
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