Obit: Morris Polan





Carol Selkin
Media Relations
(323) 343-3044


of Events

Obituary for Morris Polan

University Librarian Emeritus,
California State University, Los Angeles
and Coordinator of Public Affairs,
Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs

Morris Polan, California State University, Los Angeles University Librarian Emeritus and Pat Brown Institute Coordinator of Public Affairs, died Saturday evening of heart failure.

Morris Polan was born in East St. Louis, Illinois, on January 24, 1924. He began his undergraduate studies at Southern Illinois University and, following military service, completed his B.A. in political science at UCLA in 1949. He received an M.S. in library science from the University of Southern California, and held positions at the Los Angeles Public Library and USC.

Morrie—as he was known to his many friends and colleagues—began his connection with Cal State L.A. in 1955, only eight years after the founding of “L.A. State,” when the current campus was little more than a few mobile trailers. With the University’s library for 33 years, Morrie supervised the building of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, directed its growth and expansion, and oversaw its rapid return to full operation within months after the devastating effects of the 1987 earthquake.

Starting as periodicals librarian, Morrie served as head of reference, head of reader services and assistant college librarian. He became College (now University) Librarian in 1965, a position he held until his retirement. Morrie originally chose his retirement date to coincide with the “200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.” (“Timing is everything,” he declared in a letter to Library personnel, peppered with French, announcing his impending retirement.) Records show that, in fact, he retired slightly earlier—in December 30, 1988. Following Morrie’s retirement, University President James M. Rosser granted him emeritus status.

During his tenure as University Librarian, Morrie was professionally active on local, state and national levels. He served on the board of scholars for El Pueblo State Historic Park, the advisory committee for the Center for the Study of Media and Values, and the advisory board of the Pat Brown Institute. He was the co-founder of the Los Angeles Cooperative Library Consortium, and coordinator for the California Center for the Book—an affiliate of the Library of Congress. He was a member of the planning committee for the California Library Authority for Systems and Service, was editor of California Librarian, and was president of the California Library Association and chair of its Government Relations Committee. In 1979, he headed the California delegation to the White House Conference on Library and Information Services.

Although his intentions were to “pursue some of the civilized and civilizing arts”—which, for Morrie, included chamber music recitals, lectures, movies, Linda Ronstadt concerts, gardening, reading, fine dining, writing and Dodger games—Morrie’s retirement wish list also included “further public service” and “some political activity.” Strongly drawn to political issues and long supportive of the Democratic Party, he began an association with the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs, a non-partisan center for applied public policy that he helped bring to the Cal State L.A. campus in 1987. In 1992, he was hired as the Pat Brown Institute’s coordinator of public affairs, a position he held until his death.

He leaves two daughters, Ruth and Miriam, and a vast network of friends and colleagues who will remember his verbal wit, his knowledge and understanding of politics, and his commitment to preserving and cherishing the creative accomplishments of the human spirit. Morrie Polan has been an important and supportive campus presence for the majority of Cal State L.A.’s considerable history and will be deeply missed by the campus community and his wider circle of friends. The Pat Brown Institute, the Kennedy Library, and the CSULA President’s office will coordinate a memorial dedicated to Morrie’s life in the very near future.

Graveside services will be held at Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries, Hollywood Hills on Wednesday, March 27, 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Pat Brown Institute, CSULA—(323) 343-3779; or the National Yiddish Book Center, Amherst, MA—(413) 256-4900.

NOTE: Photographs are available


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