David. C. Copley 1952–2012

The David C. Copley Center for The Study of Costume Design Mourns the loss of its Founding patron

Posted on November 19th 2012 in Obituary

The communities of TFT and the David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design are grieving the loss of their beloved friend and benefactor David C. Copley. He passed away last week near his home in La Jolla.

The Copley Center at TFT exists due to Copley’s substantial endowment and was made possible by his extraordinary vision and generosity. He established the center in 2008 with a $6 million landmark gift and was one of the School’s most heartfelt and committed patrons, as well as a prized member of The UCLA Foundation Governors.

“The loss of a personal friend as well as a supporter of the arts is devastating. David was a genuine enthusiast for the field of costume design and a proponent for its key collaborative role in motion picture storytelling,” said Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis MFA ’75. An Academy Award nominated costume designer, Landis MFA is the founding director of the Copley Center, occupying the David C. Copley Chair for the Study of Costume Design.

“David Copley’s vision, generosity and kindness have been beyond all measure. We feel so much gratitude for having the privilege of knowing such a remarkable and special man. All of us at TFT mourn the loss of our beloved friend, David. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and close friends at this difficult time. We will keep David’s fine and good spirit close to our hearts always,” said Teri Schwartz, Dean of the School.

Copley’s gift allowed the center to be the first of its kind in the world. In 2012, TFT hosted its annual “Sketch to Screen” event inviting the year’s Costume Designers Oscar®-nominees Sandy Powell, Mark Bridges and Lisy Christl for an in-depth exclusive panel discussion moderated by Landis. The Copley Center continually brings in leading professionals as visiting faculty, provides scholarships and sponsors events and award shows. In 2010, The David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design partnered with Swarovski to host the first Creative Crystal Workshop for its students.

An enthusiastic fan of popular culture as well as fine art, he created the David C. Copley Prize for Most Innovative Costume at San Diego Comic Con. He genuinely enjoyed attending the convention each year with Landis to hand out the prestigious award. A noted patron of the arts, Copley also financed Broadway musicals and art projects by the installation artist Christo, and generously supported the theater program at UC San Diego.

Copley was the owner and publisher of the San Diego Union-Tribune until it sold in 2009. Under Copley’s leadership, the paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for exposing the corruption of Congressman Randall “Duke” Cunningham.

David C. Copley was a true philanthropist, turning his passions into extraordinary opportunities. He was socially progressive and sought to uphold his family’s legacy with his hard work and dedication to the arts. The TFT community will miss him enormously.

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Home > Feature Stories & News > Gilbert Cates 1934-2011

Gilbert Cates 1934-2011

Founding dean of TFT was award-winning stage, film and television director

Kal Penn and Obama

Posted on November 11th 2011 in Obituary

Gilbert “Gil” Cates, founding dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and producing director at the Geffen Playhouse, died Monday, Oct. 31. He was 77.

Cates, an entertainment industry leader and the recipient of numerous awards, produced and directed feature films, television specials and Broadway and off-Broadway plays. He also produced multiple Academy Awards television broadcasts, earning Emmy awards and nominations.

Cates served as dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) from 1990 to 1998 and was on the faculty of the school as a professor.

“Our entire TFT community is overwhelmingly saddened by the loss of our beloved mentor, colleague and friend,” said Teri Schwartz, dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. “Today we mourn our great loss but also celebrate Gil’s extraordinary vision and countless contributions, not only to TFT as founding dean and distinguished professor but to the entertainment and performing arts industries and the education of our students, who benefited from his remarkable talent, insights, generosity, experience and wisdom. Our deepest condolences and love go out to Gil’s beloved family at this very difficult time.”

Emergency medical personnel responded to a call on campus at about 5:50 p.m. Monday but were unable to revive Cates. The Los Angeles County coroner is investigating the cause of death.

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TFT Professor and Live Television Pioneer Robert Trachinger, 1924-2010

“Technical wizard” innovated portable video cameras, slow-motion playback and remote location broadcasting


Robert Trachinger, innovative ABC television executive and TFT professor, passed away Sept. 19 in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., at the age of 86.

Trachinger’s work in broadcasting began in 1950 at ABC, where he worked on a broad spectrum of programming, including the early live serial “Space Patrol,” innovative documentaries such as “Decision to Die” and on live coverage of the Kennedy-Nixon debates and the Academy Awards.

He worked side by side with Roone Arledge, then president of ABC Sports, on “Wide World of Sports” and the Olympic Games telecasts, beginning with the Winter Games in Innsbruck in 1964 and concluding with the landmark Summer Games in Los Angeles in 1984.

The Hollywood Reporter recently called Trachinger “a technical wizard,” acclaimed in engineering circles for his innovative thinking and for his contributions to broadcast technology. He was responsible for developing the first hand-held TV camera, the first underwater TV camera (field-tested in his own swimming pool) and slow-motion videotape for replay at sports events, introduced on-air in 1961.

The winner of three Emmy Awards, Trachinger retired from ABC as a vice president in 1985.

In addition to his professional career, Trachinger had a deep commitment to education and to mentoring young people. At his death he was a Professor Emeritus of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, having taught courses in production and ethics in media from 1968 to 1998.

He was instrumental in introducing classes in live TV production into the TFT curriculum. The van for remote production that is still parked at the School, between Melnitz and East Melnitz, was acquired for the School by Trachinger through his many industry connections.

As a Fulbright scholar from 1985 to 1986, Trachinger lectured in Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Spain, at the Sorbonne in France and at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

After retirement, his passion for sharing continued. In 2002, Trachinger taught at UC San Diego’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, directing and producing a series of video programs, broadcast locally, made by and about his senior contemporaries. In 1997 the San Diego Press Club bestowed the “Headliners Media Legend Award” to Trachinger.

Robert Trachinger is survived by his wife of 34 years, Helga, his son Set, his filmmaker daughter Mia Trachinger, his son-in-law Jason Brush and granddaughter Lotte.


George Eckstein: 1928-2009

Alumnus wrote much classic TV: the finale of "The Fugitive" and Spielberg's breakthrough MOW "Duel"

George Eckstein

“A record 72% of the viewing audience watched the 1967 ‘Fugitive’ finale,” notes the Los Angeles Times in its obituary for the writer of that classic episode, TFT alumnus George Eckstein ’49.

Eckstein died of lung cancer on Sept. 19 at his home in Brentwood. He was 81.

An excerpt from the Los Angeles Times obituary is below.

In a television career that began in the early 1960s, Eckstein amassed a string of credits over the next several decades. Among them: serving as a producer on “The Name of the Game” TV series, executive producing the “Banacek” television series, producing the TV movies “Amelia Earhart” and “Tail Gunner Joe” and serving as an executive producer of the TV miniseries “Masada” and “79 Park Avenue” and on the television series “Love, Sidney.”

“Duel,” the suspenseful 1971 television movie that Eckstein produced starring Dennis Weaver as a motorist terrorized by the unseen driver of a tanker truck, proved to be a significant milestone in the budding career of the 24-year-old Spielberg.

Eckstein, who also was an associate producer and a co-producer on “The Fugitive,” teamed with Michael Zagor to co-write the final two-part story, “The Judgment.”

“There were certain givens,” Eckstein recalled in a 1994 interview with the “Chicago Tribune.” “We knew there was no trick. The one-armed man was guilty, Kimble would confront him at some point and Gerard would have to accept the fact of Kimble’s innocence. The rest was for us to determine.”

Instead of flowers, his family asks that donations be sent to the Writers Guild Foundation.