By Peggy McInerny, Director of Communications
UCLA International Institute, April 29, 2022 — The UCLA International Institute is sad to share the news that Samuel Aroni, former director of special academic cooperative projects at the International and Overseas Studies Program (the organizational precursor of the International Institute) died on April 20, 2022.
Aroni joined UCLA in 1970 as a professor of architecture and urban planning in what was then the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Prior to coming to UCLA, he spent three years at American Cement Corporation (1967–70), where he conducted research on building materials and industrialized housing systems, and taught at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State College. He retired from UCLA as a professor emeritus in 1991, but remained active on campus.
An authority on structural engineering, concrete, statistical methods, building systems, housing and earthquakes, his career at UCLA spanned numerous responsibilities, including acting dean of the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning (1974–75 and 1983–85); member and later chairman of the board of its independent practice arm, the Urban Innovations Group; chair of UCLA Academic Senate (1981–82); and chair of the UCLA Joint Senate-Administration Earthquake Safety Committee (1983–90).
At the UCLA International Studies and Overseas Program (ISOP), Aroni spent roughly two decades forging collaborative research projects, faculty and student exchange programs and research conferences with institutions of higher education abroad.
His work at ISOP involved regular overseas travel that led to the creation of enduring exchange programs and joint research projects with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel; École Speciale des Travaux Publiques in France; and the University of South Wales, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Victoria University in Australia. Some of the conferences he helped organize brought together researchers from several of those institutions to address topics such as the challenges of aging.
One of his most lasting legacies at the UCLA International Institute is the Sol A. Leshin Fund, an endowment that supports collaborative agricultural research programs between UCLA and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Aroni was instrumental in securing funding for the endowment, now valued at close to $4 million, and managed the fund until 2016.
Throughout his career, the UCLA professor worked to advance the engineering, architecture and housing professions through numerous consultancies and active membership in professional organizations. Aroni was both a consultant to and active member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. One of his many other consultancies involved leading a large interdisciplinary team to conduct a systems analysis of Israeli housing in the early 1970s at the World Institute in Jerusalem.
Aroni published widely in the fields of structures, concrete materials, statistical methods, building systems and housing, and was awarded the J. James R. Croes Gold Medal in 1981 by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Among his numerous professional affiliations, he was a member of the World Congress of Engineers and Architects, American Society of Civil Engineers, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, American Concrete Institute and the Society of Sigma XI. He also served on the editorial boards of the Architectural Science Review (Australia) and the International Journal for Development Technology.
In addition, Aroni was a board member of Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, national vice president of the Architectural Research Centers Consortium (an organization representing over 40 schools of architecture) and a member of the Working Group on Earthquake Related Casualties of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Born Samuel Cervinschi in Kishinev, Romania in 1927, Aroni was forced by the German and Romanian armies in 1941 to move to the walled Ghetto with his family and all other Jews in the city. He and his immediate family were among the few to escape; however, but his grandparents later perished during a death march to extermination camps in Transnistria. Aroni’s family was separated while hiding in Bucharest, but eventually reunited and traveled to Palestine in 1944. The family then changed their surname to Aroni in honor of the childrens’ grandfather, Aron, who had perished in the Holocaust.
Aroni moved to Melbourne, Australia in the 1950s, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (BCE) at the University of Melbourne and studied town and regional planning. He, his wife and two daughters moved to California in 1963, where he completed his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley and began his academic career.
Holocaust studies were another major focus of Aroni. He wrote a memoir in 1995, “Memories of the Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau), 1941–1944” (published on the UCLA International Institute’s website) and contributed his wealth and breadth of knowledge to the Israeli government and to other foreign governmental and educational institutions.
The outpouring of tributes that his family has received from former students (some of whom he drove to his classes when they lacked transportation) and colleagues is in keeping with his multidimensional UCLA legacy. That legacy extended to members of his immediate family. Miriam Aroni and her husband, Glenn Krinksy, both completed their undergraduate degrees at UCLA and graduated from UCLA School of Law; Miriam went on to teach as an adjunct professor at the UCLA School of Public Affairs.
Aroni is survived by his daughters Ruth and Miriam, son-in-law Glenn Krinsky, granddaughters Sarah and Hannah Krinsky and grandson-in-law Daniel Novick. His wife Malca Aroni predeceased him in 2020. A celebration of his life was held April 24, 2022 at Eden Memorial Park in Mission Hills, California. In lieu of flowers, his family requests that donations in his memory be made to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum or JDC for Ukrainian Jews.
See the obituary of Samuel Aroni published in The Los Angeles Times.
See the obituary published by UCLA Newsroom.