New Scholarship Honors Barbara Varat

May 24, 2022
Barbara Varat
Barbara Varat

UCLA School of Law has announced the establishment of the Barbara A. Varat Scholarship. Named for the school’s former associate dean and longtime staff member who retired fully in 2018, the new scholarship will support former law school staff members who wish to earn a degree at UCLA Law.

Varat left a remarkable legacy at UCLA Law and was beloved to generations of colleagues and students. In her nearly fifty-year tenure, Varat was well known as an innovative administrator, ingenious problem-solver, and deft manager of complex projects across the institution. She was also known for the generosity of spirit she showed to the staff she mentored and the law students she helped in her role as dean of students.

“When the school had seemingly insoluble challenges, Barb could solve them,” says Sean Pine Treacy, the current assistant dean for academic affairs and operations, and Varat’s longtime friend and co-worker. “That could be how to master the complex academic schedule, or how to administer a faculty-student mentoring program, or even figuring out a roommate matching service!”

Indeed, Varat was involved in projects that touched on a mind-boggling number of aspects of the school’s mission and operations.

She expanded and improved student orientation and graduation processes and played an instrumental role in over one hundred facilities projects and renovations. She oversaw the school’s emergency loan program and administered scholarships. Her leadership was indispensable in bringing AV access to campus, as well as in developing countless classrooms and office suites, including the External Affairs, Critical Race Studies, and Promise Institute spaces, as well as the current arrangement of the dean’s suite.

One of Varat’s key innovations, still in use—and beloved—to this day, was the introduction of the flexible, adjustable podiums that allow faculty of all heights to teach in comfort.

“When Barbara joined us in 1971, UCLA was quite a good law school,” said the former dean of UCLA Law, William Warren, upon Varat’s initial retirement in 2007. “But now, thirty-six years later, it has become one of the great national law schools. Barbara’s extraordinary ability to make this place work has played no small part in this success!”

“Few people have served the school longer and with greater dedication than Barb,” says Lauren Kim, chief of staff to Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin, and a friend and colleague of Varat’s for nearly twenty years. “She loves the school and everyone loves her!”

“I’m so delighted we have the chance to celebrate Barb’s legacy at UCLA Law,” adds Dean Mnookin. “She is both pragmatic and inspirational and has been such a wonderful advisor to me and my predecessors on matters ranging from building projects, to student well-being, to the curriculum.” Mnookin added.

Varat was just two weeks out of college when she joined the UCLA Law Staff as a clerk in the Records Office. This would be the first of many positions she would hold during her decades-long career at the school. In addition to her initial work as a clerk, would hold go on to hold the roles of Registrar, Dean of Students, and Associate Dean.

“She is just a force of nature,” says Leslie Gilbert-Lurie, UCLA School of Law class of ’84 and a longtime friend of Varat. “She dedicated her entire career to UCLA Law School and evolved along the way to take on more and more responsibility, be able to impact the school in larger and better ways, and just kept growing as a leader and a human being to take on more and more. I’m sure, no one has had a greater diversity of jobs at the law school than Barbara.”

This new scholarship established to honor Varat’s contributions and influence is only the second scholarship ever to be named for a former staff member and is the first specifically designed to support, when possible, a former staff member in attending UCLA law school. “It is an entirely fitting tribute to Barb’s legacy to support those colleagues pursuing an education in law,” says Pine Treacy. “No one was, or is, a greater supporter of her fellow staff members than Barb.”

In addition to former employees, the scholarship may also be available to applicants with financial needs who are pursuing a second career, and to first-generation law students.

Fundraising for this scholarship, which is ongoing, was given a jumpstart this January by a generous founding gift from Jonathan D. Varat, Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus, and, of course, Varat’s husband. Members of the senior staff, including Kim and Pine Treacy, are working alongside the external affairs office to see to it that the full funding for the scholarship is completed this year so that the funds can support a deserving candidate as soon as possible.

“We’re confident that when Barb’s generations of devoted fans hear about this scholarship in her name, they will jump at the chance to be part of it,” says Pine Treacy. “And it gives us the chance to catch up with so many old friends!”

For information about the Barbara A. Varat Scholarship, or to make a contribution, please contact our External Affairs office at annualfund@law.ucla.edu or call 310-206-1121, or visit UCLA Law’s giving page.

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