Robert ’64, J.D. ’67, and Nancy ’64, M.A. ’66, Weeks
On a bench outside the County Government Center in San Jose, Calif., reads Gandhi’s profound teaching: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The bench was donated by Robert ’64, J.D. ’67, and Nancy ’64, M.A. ’66, Weeks, who live by that powerful credo. For the last 20 years, the UCLA Alumni Scholarship fund they endowed has been helping students financially and providing them with a deep and ongoing connection to the University via a family whose Bruin roots run deep and span UCLA’s entire history in Westwood.
In the Beginning – Family Ties, Near Misses and Windfalls
Robert (Bob) Weeks and Nancy Rockoff met on campus sometime in the early 1960s. Ironically, for two people who have an encyclopedic recollection of their time as students (and their lives since), they don’t actually remember how they first met – they just know that they travelled in the same circles and probably met along the campaign trail on Bruin Walk.
For one thing, as Bob points out, “Nancy was born to be a Bruin; I am the accidental Bruin. I had done well at Narbonne High School – was one of the graduation speakers – and I was all lined up to go to Claremont Men’s College. They gave me a scholarship, but it wasn’t quite enough. So, at the last minute, I decided to go to UCLA where the yearly fees were about $150.”
Nancy’s parents, Dick Rockoff ’31 and Bea Blackstone Rockoff ’33 had met at UCLA and served on the Alumni Scholarship Committee in Downey, Calif., for more than 20 years. Bea’s sister also attended UCLA, so Nancy’s destiny may have seemed almost pre-determined, but the L.A.-native family had moved to the Bay Area after World War II, and Nancy had become enamored with Stanford’s beautiful chapel and campus.
In 1953, Dick got a position at the South Gate plant of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and the Rockoffs returned to Southern California. A Stanford education turned out not to be in the cards for Nancy, a top student at Warren High School and, like Bob, a graduation speaker. She entered UCLA on a Firestone Scholarship, which covered tuition, two-thirds of room and board, and all books. “I am very grateful for this wonderful help to my family,” she says.
Campus Activities – From Politics to Pauley
Bob may have been the accidental Bruin, but, when it came to campus activities, Nancy was the accidental politician. “My parents always said ‘get involved, be responsible,’” she recalled. “I can’t say that I really went after leadership, but I was so responsible, friendly and inclusive that leadership positions came to me.
“I got my start in politics because of my sorority, Sigma Kappa. That was my nucleus of close friends – 50 girls could live in the house – and they’re still some of my closest friends. The sorority urged you to get involved on campus and I was on the elections committee. When elections came around in spring, a friend of mine urged me to run for lower division women’s rep on SLC (Student Legislative Council). So I did, and I won! Then the next year, I ran for upper division women’s rep, and I won. And then the next step was ASUCLA vice president. In those days the president of ASUCLA had to be a man. The vice-president was a woman and the official campus hostess. I ran against another woman and it wasn’t an easy election. At that time, we counted the ballots by hand and it was very close. Eventually they had a runoff election and I won in a landslide. As I say, I never really went out with a plan to go into politics, but I just kind of ended up there.”
For Bob, campus politics was always part of the plan. “I got to Dykstra Hall in the fall of 1960 and I thought, I’ve got four years here; how am I going to end up at the top? In short, by working hard and taking advantage of my opportunities. I got appointed program chairman for my floor and then for all of Dykstra. We showed feature movies in the Dykstra cafeteria on Sunday nights. I saw Theta Delta Chi (TDX) fraternity was active in both student politics and student activities. I pledged TDX in the spring of 1961 and worked to elect brother Jim Stiven as ASUCLA president; that may be where I first ran into Nancy because we’re all out on Bruin Walk campaigning. Stiven appointed me to the ASUCLA finance committee and another brother got me involved in Spring Sing. The chair of the finance committee was Sheila Kuehl ’62, who later worked with me in State Bar activities, served in the California Legislature and is now on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. We’re still in contact with her and have introduced some of our Alumni Scholars to her.”
Bob is also co-founder of the Bruin radio station, which started broadcasting on April 26, 1961, as KBRU. “My second semester, one of my high school buddies and I figured out how to broadcast — it was only to the dorms. I was program director from the spring of 1961 to the spring of 1963.”
Following vastly different routes, they both ended up on Bruin Walk at the same time in 1962 or ’63, and their student activities continued to be intertwined with their personal lives.
“Bob was executive director of the Interfraternity Council, and for our first date, in April 1963, he took me to a dinner dance at the Western Regional IFC convention at the Disneyland Hotel,” Nancy remembered.
Bob remembers dancing with Nancy to Les Brown’s “Band of Renown.” “Nancy was light on her feet and easy to lead and was not at all put off by my ambition to become president of the United States. I got over wanting to be president but I never got over Nancy!”
Their second date was on campus on May 4, with Bob accompanying the newly elected ASUCLA vice president to a UCLA Anniversary Day Cocktail Reception held at the Alumni Center in Kerckhoff Hall.
Their positions in student leadership led to a variety of memorable experiences.
We went to all the home football games and enjoyed doing the card stunts and cheering on the Bruins. As ASUCLA Vice-President, Nancy was invited to the football awards banquet in December 1963. “I got an ashtray as a souvenir, which shows that it was a different time. In 1964, I was invited to the basketball team awards banquet and still have the souvenir glass of the NCAA Championship with the scores of all the games from their 30-0 season under Coach John Wooden listed on it.”
They knew one of the most famous Bruin athletes of the era from their involvement in a UC-wide initiative. “Arthur Ashe was in Cal Club with us — Clark Kerr had started it and it included 25 students per campus — to provide student feedback directly to the UC President.”
Nancy was present at the groundbreaking of Pauley Pavilion in 1964 (as was Edwin W. Pauley himself). The student union was opened during the Weeks’ time on campus, in 1961; in 1967, it was renamed after William C. Ackerman ’24, whom they knew quite well.
“We went to a concert by the Kingston Trio at the Student Union in 1962, the one recorded and issued as ‘College Concert,’” recalls Bob. “Their opening joke was, ‘Hello UCLA, great to be here at a five-year undergraduate institution — four years going to class, one year looking for a place to park.’ Still true!”
Tragedies, Honors and the Start of an Enduring Union
Though very involved in campus politics, Nancy says, “I didn’t know that much about world politics. But the world came to UCLA. Some UCLA students joined the Freedom Riders in the South. I can remember standing on Bruin Walk around 1965 singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ Several of our friends were killed in Vietnam, including UCLA Head Yell Leader Doug Nichols.”
In an era that featured visits to campus by many world leaders, including President Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Nancy was an active participant on some of those occasions — she went to a luncheon with Alabama Governor George Wallace and Peace Corps Director Sargent Shriver, and to a reception at the Chancellor’s residence where she met the Shah of Iran.
In addition to his Interfraternity Council work, Bob was chairman of the 1963 Homecoming Parade, which was cancelled because of the assassination of President Kennedy on the day the parade was to have taken place. He was also chairman of Spring Sing ’64, which was held in the Hollywood Bowl. One of the student government positions Bob held, chairman of the ASUCLA Board of Control, came with a special perk: a lifetime discount card at the UCLA Student Store.
In 1964, when Nancy was chosen as the Woman of the Year by the Associated Women Students, Bob was selected as the Interfraternity Council Man of the Year. Both Bob and Nancy were recipients of the “Honor Edition” of the 1964 yearbook, given by the Associated Students to the men and women of the senior class who had best distinguished themselves by scholarship, loyalty, and service to the University. (Honoree and classmate Harry Shearer ’64 is shown on the same page of the annual.)
Bob sums up his undergraduate experience: “It seemed like such a tragedy that I wasn’t going to go to Claremont Men’s College, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me — because, there she was! I met Nancy, got a good education at a reasonable price and had leadership opportunities I never would have dreamed of.”
Both Bob and Nancy graduated in 1964 and stayed on at UCLA to get advanced degrees. Nancy, a geography major as an undergraduate, got her masters in the same discipline and Bob, who majored in public service, started law school. They were both still involved in campus activities as house advisors in the dorms — Nancy in Sproul and Bob in Dykstra.
“In 1965-66, I was house advisor for the bottom floor of Dykstra. That was Lew Alcindor’s (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ’69) first year on campus, when he was on the freshman team. I had, living on my floor, Lew (with a custom bed in his room); his roommate, Lucius Allen ’69; and also Mike Warren ’71, Fred Goss ’66 and Lynn Shackelford ’69. Imagine, a basketball team from my dorm floor that could take on anybody in the world!”
Bob Weeks and Nancy Rockoff were married in September 1966. Bob had one more year in law school and Nancy had just completed her masters. They moved into Married Students Housing on Sepulveda Blvd. “I had my masters and I tried to get a job, but the first question they would ask me is ‘what is the draft status of your husband?’ I would tell them that he has a student deferment through law school, but I couldn’t guarantee that I could stay at least two years, since he might get drafted, and I would follow him to wherever he had to report in the U.S. So I didn’t get the jobs.”
“It would be illegal to ask that question now, but in 1966 it was standard,” says Bob.
Nancy continued, “I was lucky and found a job on the campus, where I knew everybody from the chancellor on down. I was hired as a receptionist at the UCLA Alumni Office in Kerckhoff Hall where I also gave campus tours and helped organize a reception for Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia. The president of the Alumni Association at that time was H.R. Haldeman (later, President Nixon’s Chief of Staff).”
Bob completed law school in 1967 and, after working as a clerk for a U. S. District Judge in Sacramento, served 28 months on active duty as an officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the United States Navy, most of it at Brunswick Naval Air Station in Maine. “I wanted to serve my country — that was a very strong feeling of mine — but I wanted to use my legal education.”
Life, Work, Faith and Service
Upon his release from active duty, the couple returned to California, settling in San Jose, where they raised their two children, Carolyn and Alan. Bob worked as a Deputy Public Defender for the Santa Clara County Public Defender in San Jose from September 1970 to March 1999. “I decided advocacy was what I was interested in — it stems from learning from a famous political science professor at UCLA, Charles Titus, about finding a career niche that won’t go out of style. I represented thousands of clients on charges from traffic citations to capital murder and was active in professional legal activities at the local, state and national levels.”
“Bob took early retirement because he had seen his father die before he could retire,” says Nancy. “After retiring, he got involved with the American Bar Association and represented our county in that group for 17 years. He even volunteered as a traffic court judge for 12 years.”
“It’s about public service,” says Bob. “My mother was a public health nurse and my father was a high school music teacher. Their giving nature was passed on to me.
“I’ve got this plaque on my desk, where I can look at it, right next to Nancy’s picture. It contains a quote from Teddy Roosevelt – ‘Do what you can with what you have where you are.’ And one from John Wesley – ‘Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.’” It’s a credo that the Bob and Nancy Weeks have lived their entire lives.
“Two weeks after my retirement I rode my bicycle across the U.S. with 17 other people, all over 50 years old,” says Bob. “I used it as a fundraiser for Community Legal Services here in San Jose, which helps poor people who need legal help. We raised about $10,000.”
Nancy has given back to society through volunteer work. “For 20 years I taught a diversity program in our local Santa Clara County schools. I went to over 120 elementary schools with a team of people and we’d teach a class once a week for four weeks at each school. We talked about diversity, how we’re all different, how we feel when we’re left out and how we all have been left out at times. It could be because of body size or shape, race, economics — you name it. We talked about stereotypes, prejudice and how to resolve problems so everyone feels included.” Nancy also volunteered in the office of their local, Congressman Norm Mineta, who later served in the cabinet as Secretary of Commerce and Secretary of Transportation under two U.S. Presidents.
Bob and Nancy were chosen to be torchbearers for the 2002 Winter Olympics because of their service to the community. The theme was “Light the Fire Within.” “We inspire people and that’s what they were looking for,” says Nancy. “We bought our torches and later went to 15 schools and spoke to classes or assemblies about our experience. We told the kids our story, and we would ask ‘What could you do to give back?’ And then we let every student hold the torch and take pictures with it, and they wrote us little stories afterward” — three-hanky stories, in Bob’s words — “of what they could do to help people in their community.”
Over the years, Bob and Nancy have been active in churches and other spiritual groups. As with every aspect of their life, they try to be inclusive and open-minded in their spirituality. “Since 2004, we have attended an inter-faith spiritual meditation center here in San Jose which has brought deeper meaning to our lives and been an anchor during the pandemic,” says Bob.
“We went to a Parliament of the World’s Religions, including people of all different faiths,” adds Nancy. “We went to one in Australia in 2009 and one in Utah in 2015 — and we saw a chart that had the Golden Rule from 13 different religions. Every religion has something similar and we’ve often shared that with others. As the Dalai Lama says, ‘Whatever faith you are, be a good one.’ So we’ve tried to be inclusive — that’s just who we are.”
Giving Back, Setting Examples, Learning and Growing
In 2000, the couple saw an opportunity to give back to the university that had been so important to their family, they took it.
Nancy explained, “My father died in ’92, my mother in 2000; after my mother died, my brother Ray and I decided to endow an Alumni Scholarship in our parents’ name. We knew they never would have done it, but they would be happy. We wanted the recipients to be entering freshman who had a proven record of community service and the potential for leadership. My father had been president of the California Credit Union League and on the board of the Credit Union National Association. My mother was active in the PTA and was volunteer of the year for the city of Downey. My parents had always supported the UCLA Alumni Association and gave me a life membership when I graduated.”
Bob continued, “After seeing how much fun it was and how great these students were, we decided to endow a scholarship in our own name. About three years ago, we merged them into what is now called the Weeks-Rockoff Family Scholarship. We also changed the eligibility to students from Santa Clara County so that, if we can’t get down to UCLA to meet them, we can see them close to home. The last couple of years, we’ve had a reception at our home for any of our students to come, with parents or friends, for dessert and a visit. Whenever we’re on campus, we contact our current students to get together for a visit. We bring our yearbooks and photos as well as snacks.”
Nancy spoke of the impact the scholarship has had. “Since 2000, when we first gave it, we have had 53 Alumni Scholars and keep in touch with a number of them. Twelve have gone on to medical school, six have gone to law school at Harvard, UCLA, Georgetown, UCI, etc. We’ve had a couple CPAs, talent agents, engineers — they’ve done all sorts of amazing things. We send them our family newsletter during the holidays. Every once in a while, a student we haven’t heard from for 10 years will get in touch with us.
“Over the years, our scholars have been from a variety of cultures and have included us in their family gatherings, at their weddings and religious celebrations. We encourage our scholars on their career paths and connect them with people we know and former graduates. We also give them the opportunity to network among themselves.”
“For example,” Bob says, “we recently had a 90-minute chat with a young man we had encouraged to consider law school. We connected him with a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge who had interned for me in San Jose, and also with a special counselor at the UCLA School of Law. This student just finished his first year at a UC law school, is very excited about criminal law and is an intern with a prosecutor’s office. This year’s two graduating scholars are both women; one is applying to medical school for 2022 and the other is headed to law school in Chicago.”
“It’s inspiring to us to see these young people take off,” said Nancy.
Bob and Nancy consider it their job to inspire others — students as well as other alumni who may get the gratification that they have experienced by making a connection with bright, talented and enthusiastic students. “It works both ways,” said Nancy. “We inspire people and they inspire us.”
“I tell our students, ‘We didn’t build it,’” Bob explained. “We all stand on the shoulders of those who went before us. People of vision and insight gathered the resources to create the University of California, to create UCLA. And our job is to really be stewards of it for the future, and we try to replicate ourselves by welcoming these alumni scholars into the UCLA family and being an example for them — and we hope that they’ll do as we did.”
The continuity of Bruin spirit that Bob and Nancy help to enable is mirrored in their personal lives, where they maintain that same youthful energy and outlook they’ve always had against the backdrop of an ever-changing world.
“When we walk holding hands on the UCLA campus today, we notice three things,” says Bob. “(1) the trees are taller; (2) buildings and streets are named after people we actually knew, like Franklin Murphy, Chuck Young, Bill Ackerman and Arthur Ashe; and (3) we still feel like the students we were when we fell in love there many years ago.”
After two lifetimes filled with accomplishments and service, the overriding feeling Bob and Nancy have is one of appreciation.
“We’ve taken advantage of our opportunities and we have been so blessed,” says Bob. “When I think of the flow of divine grace in my life sometimes I can hardly stand it, it’s so overwhelming and overpowering. I’m just so grateful.”