Paul Backer: A Proud Mother’s Enduring Tribute

“PAUL DISCOVERED THE JOY OF READING BOOKS ALL BY HIMSELF,” recalled Rama Backer of her son, Paul (pictured left). “He loved reading Charles Schultz’s Peanuts books when he was a child, and his taste later expanded to include mysteries by Ruth Rendell and Scandinavian authors and books about Spanish Golden Age theatre.” With his love of books, it comes as no surprise that Paul was interested in studying English. “He was searching for the right university that offered the best English program and found UCLA,” his mother explained. “Paul loved the work of William Shakespeare, partly for the sheer beauty of his language and partly for the philosophy exemplified in his works,” said Rama. His study of Shakespeare’s plays may have kindled his interest in acting and directing, particularly for theatre, and after graduating from UCLA, he pursued advanced degrees in theatre and drama. In fact, reviews of productions Paul later directed praised his ability to enable general audiences to understand and enjoy Shakespeare. 

For many years Paul taught voice, acting, and theatre history at the University of Southern California, where, Rama said, his students described him fondly as “the walking encyclopedia.” Rama herself liked to call him “Mr. Chips”: “He dedicated his life to his students, encouraging them to be independent thinkers and supporting their independent student productions.” 

Throughout the years, Paul remained a lifelong fan of the Bruins. When Rama was searching for a suitable way to honor her son’s legacy, she thought of the UCLA Library, which her son used frequently during his undergraduate years. 

Rama chose to make a gift to name one of the group study rooms in the Charles E. Young Research Library in Paul’s honor. “This gift will support needed renovations to keep the Research Library up to date and available for students,” she noted. “Paul loved his years at UCLA, and he would be delighted that through this gift, students will continue to see who he was and the importance he placed on teaching and learning.”