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UCLA alumnus Norman J. Powell, a generous donor and valued community member of UCLA Library, passed away on January 28, 2024. He was 90.

“Powell was a true Bruin and wonderful friend to the Library. His visionary gifts, including his endowment of the Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian and recent efforts to advance the work of our Data Science Center, will continue to play an essential role in teaching, learning and research at UCLA,” said Ginny Steel, the inaugural Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian. “Norman could always be counted on to show up at Library events with his UCLA Library tie. His commitment to supporting education and innovation have touched the lives of so many, and he will be deeply missed.”

Born in Los Angeles in 1933, Powell graduated with a bachelor's degree in earth physics and exploration geophysics in 1959. After three decades as a scientist and consultant for the petroleum industry, he retired in 1990 and turned his attention to environmental activism, with a focus on open space and conservation in the Southern California region. His wife of 50 years, Armena, died in 2013.

Powell’s connection to UCLA extended far beyond his academic journey, shaping the institution through his generous contributions and unwavering commitment to its success. The son of legendary University Librarian Lawrence Clark Powell (opens in a new tab)(1944-1961), Norman Powell held a deep appreciation for the importance of libraries and librarians. He not only generously supported the Library’s acquisition of the archive of photographer Barbara Morgan(opens in a new tab), known for her images of modern dancers, but matched the donations of others he encouraged to make gifts.

Powell’s background and passion for the Library's mission helped inform his 2016 decision to endow the Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian position at UCLA Library(opens in a new tab). This visionary $5 million gift supports the indispensable work of current and future UCLA university librarians, as well as the rich array of Library collections, valuable in-person services and digital resources the Library provides.

At the time, Powell said, “I hope my gift inspires others to make similar gifts; the UCLA library cannot sustain its standing as a premier institution and grow without support from people like you and me.”

Powell demonstrated a passion for the UCLA Library Data Science Center(opens in a new tab) and was vital to its growth. His philanthropic support facilitated the creation of a data scientist position at the Library as part of his early support for UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge(opens in a new tab) and funded a deep learning machine along with other enhancements to the Data Science Center space in the Charles E. Young Research Library. He also provided seed funding for the UCLA Library DataSquad(opens in a new tab) —a team of trained undergraduates offering data science consultations and services.

“Powell was incredibly supportive of the Library’s leading-edge projects, and when he could, enthusiastically interacted with the staff and students in the Data Science Center,” said Todd Grappone, associate university librarian for digital initiatives and information technology. “Powell’s commitment to education and innovation will endure through the continued growth and evolution of UCLA Library.”

Powell lived in Laguna Beach where he was active in the community and involved with the Susi Q Senior Center and the Sherman Library and Gardens.